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MP3 Stan Ridgway - SNAKEBITE: Blacktop Ballads & Fugitive Songs

NEW. Echoing swamps, talking beer cans. Midnight trains & singing tumbleweeds. Lonely soldiers & voodoo chain gang ghosts. Stan Ridgway sings 16 brand new two fisted tales. Buckle up. New work from the Wall Of Voodoo mastermind.

16 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Americana, COUNTRY: Modern Country

The Wire (UK)
Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads and Fugitive Songs
Review by Edwin Pouncy

Former Wall Of Voodoo singer/songwriter Stan Ridgway''s eighth solo album is a glorious hard-boiled Hollywood road movie for the ears (complete with suitable sound effects) which takes the listener on a tumbleweed journey in three acts through his dark imagination. Ridgway''s lyrical talent for detail, combined with a cactus spiked humor and sense of melancholy, is what gives Snakebite its fang, and his songs ripple with observation and atmosphere. The best of these are "King For A Day". a wild ride in a stolen car that ends up crashing into the side of a house. A chance meeting with Andy Warhol that develops into "Our Manhattan Moment ", and "Talkin'' Wall Of Voodoo Blues Pt. 1" where Ridgway scathingly relates the rise and fall of his old band and the various record company and managerial rip offs that eventually tore them apart. If you are only familiar with Ridgway''s work through, what he refers to here as "that radio song", then Snakebite is an invitation to get better acquainted. Long may he run.

Stan Ridgway is equal parts Raymond Chandler and John Huston, Johnny Cash and Rod Serling. - NME

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Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads & Fugitive Songs
Review by Hal Horowitz

Stan Ridgway sounds recharged on a sprawling set that revisits familiar territory but does so in a fresh fashion. Not counting 2004''s Blood which was more a soundtrack, this is the ex- Wall of Voodoo frontman''s first solo album since 1999''s Anatomy . The 16-song track list is divided into three "acts" which infers that there is a thread connecting the tunes. But even if one senses a vague theme about traveling, reflections on life, and tall tales of outcasts, outlaws and loners, the narrative -- if there is one -- is difficult to follow. That won''t lessen a fan''s enjoyment of this splintered but always innovative and challenging album. The music occasionally has a twisted carnival feel, similar to a more upbeat version of Tom Waits '' unique style, but much less abrasive. Ridgway''s offbeat lyrics are some of his finest and most thought-provoking, with songs like "The Big 5-0" either telling a straightforward tale of a pair of losers trying to find the titular road,or a more oblique observation on a mid-life crisis. The words are juxtaposed against a modified Bo Diddley beat that also conveys the rattling of wheels on a highway. The singer''s distinctive harmonica provides the high lonesome effects on "God Sleeps in a Caboose"; standard Ridgeway train fare played with unplugged sympathy for its windswept landscapes and loser hoboes. "Throw It Away" implicitly references his Wall of Voodoo days where the bellboy puts the main character -- which seems to be Ridgway -- on hold after saying he heard "that radio song." "Talkin'' Wall of Voodoo Blues, Pt. 1" is a candid recap of his years in the band, sung with a detached yet loving approach which rails against the commerciality of the record business and pays tribute to two members who have passed. Musically, Ridgway sounds assured throughout this terrific, and rather long, but never boring disc. While it is by no means a bid at stardom, he incorporates avant-garde elements within pop structures. As such it is arguably his most impressive -- if not necessarily cohesive -- release and his best album. Established fans will be thrilled, while newcomers are encouraged to search this out and work backwards.

Review: The New Yorker Magazine

Stan Ridgway has been turning out distinctive noirish rock and roll since the late seventies, first as a member of the group Wall of Voodoo and then as a solo artist. Snakebite (Redfly) is among the better outings of his long, off-kilter career. In sixteen songs, Ridgway blends together rock, jazz, and blues in the service of his always strange, but never frivolous, storytelling. Over the years, his songwriting has become more personal, and, in addition to intimately narrated songs like "Our Manhattan Moment" and "Wake Up Sally (The Cops Are Here)," there''s "Talkin'' Wall of Voodoo Blues, Pt. 1," a rollicking retelling of the rise and fall of his former band.

Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads and Fugitive Songs

by Will Harris

Stan''s the man when it comes to the voodoo that he do so well.

Even if he isn''t remembered as one of the greatest musical storytellers of his generation (though there''s little question that he will be), Stan Ridgway will forever rank high in the field of Most Distinctive Voice. That nasal delivery of his has been instantly identifiable ever since Wall of Voodoo had their commercial breakthrough in 1982 with, you know, that song .

Ridgway''s never really been afraid to follow his muse wherever it takes him, as evidenced by such minor masterpieces as The Big Heat and Mosquitoes . Since leaving the constraints of the major label lifestyle in the early ''90s, however (not long after the release of 1991''s Partyball ), he''s really gone hog wild with the creativity. One minute, he''s giving you the musical equivalent of film noir, then you turn around and find him doing a two-disc set of big band standards and Broadway show tunes, and performing them completely straight, no less.

Snakebite: Blacktop Ballads & Fugitive Songs finds Ridgway close to the sound of his Geffen-era work (1989-1991). Divided into three acts, Snakebite is full of the sort of lyrical darkness that''s been a hallmark of Ridgway''s material since the get-go.

In Act One, "Wake Up Sally (The Cops Are Here)" is narrated by a several-time loser on the verge of getting arrested for having robbed a bus. Total haul: $12.00. Nice one. "Now, didja gas up the truck like I told you to?" he asks. "No, we can''t take the dog, he''s gonna bark." A few songs later, in
"King for a Day", another poor bastard ...or is it the same sad soul? ... is on the run, smoking crack, and bragging to someone (Sally, perhaps?) on his cell phone that, "Hey, I''m doin'' 110 now / Can you still hear me on your phone? / I got a hundred cops behind me / And overhead I hear the choppers groan / Oh, I''m headed for the wall, now / Gotta hang up now, thanks for the loan".

In Act Two of Snakebite , it becomes evident that Ridgway is a man out of time. (If he wasn''t, would he really be making lyrical references to Stubby Kaye?) Each song here could be a movie in and of itself, but every one of them would''ve been made before 1950. "Runnin'' with the Carnival" would''ve been directed by Tod Browning, "God Sleeps in a Caboose" would have to have starred Henry Fonda, and there''s little question in my mind that "Crow Hollow Blues" would''ve won Bogart an Oscar.

The third act of the album contains some of the most personal songs Ridgway''s ever written, including "My Own Universe" and "Classic Hollywood Ending", where he bemoans the way things were left between himself and someone from his past, using film as a metaphor:
Now I never knew how your curtain came down /
Or what was backstage in your mind /
We never played that lost reel we found /
The lights went up, and we''d run out of time /
And it''s only when the curtain''s down /
That the ending''s understood /
Like an old time movie, like a film from Hollywood

At the fifteenth of Snakebite ''s 16 songs, it becomes evident that Stan may well be a fugitive himself, having spent much of his life running away from his own past. Despite carving a unique musical niche for himself, there''s been an albatross around poor Stan''s neck for over two decades, and it''s apparently gotten too heavy to ignore any further.

The "albatross", of course, is the aforementioned Wall of Voodoo, or, more specifically, that goddamned "Mexican Radio". Though hardly the first ''80s band to have the one-hit wonder tag slapped on them, Wall of Voodoo had it worse than others; when the ears of middle America hear a song called
"Mexican Radio" and lyrics about "eating barbequed iguana", son, what you''ve got yourself there is a bonafide novelty hit. Never mind that Ridgway was waxing lyrical about American tourists visiting our Southwestern neighbors; for most folks hearing the song, it might as well have been "The Curly Shuffle".

And, let''s face it, Stan''s face popping out of a bowl of beans during the video probably didn''t help things any, either.

Twenty years later, Ridgway has finally tackled those Voodoo days in song. "Talkin'' Wall of Voodoo Blues, Pt. 1" appears near the tail end of Snakebite ; reminiscent of Cockeyed Ghost''s "Burning Me Out (Of the Record Store)", where Adam Marsland details his band''s pissed-up departure from Big Deal Records, Ridgway painstakingly relates the rise and fall of the Wall. It''s sad that the tale begins with the observation that, of the band''s original line-up, "two are gone to heaven" (drummer Joe Nanini suffered a fatal blood clot in his brain in 2000; guitarist Marc Moreland died in 2002 from liver failure), ends with the admission that the band disintegrated as a result of the fact that "we were all just big assholes", and, in the middle, includes these lines:

One weekend, Marc''s song fell out, the single they still talk about / We made a video with Frank Delia behind the lens /
Labor Day Mexico, lots of beans and drugs and friends /
But all was gonna bust; how were chumps like us to know? /
We took off on that tour so long and played and sang our radio song, oh-woah / Now, it seemed like that old voodoo dog we had was payin'' for its fleas / We lost control of our own band to the record company

It isn''t all anger and regrets -- although a hell of a lot of it clearly is. But Ridgway makes a point of acknowledging both up front, and in the song''s finale says that "we had some punk-rock fun". And he''s obviously still proud that "we practiced music night and day" and, as a result, eventually played the Whiskey-A-Go-Go "with Miss Ivy and Mister Lux" (the Cramps). After keeping it pent up for so many years, one can only hope that it''s been cathartic for Ridgway to get some of this stuff off his chest, though some may wonder why it took long for him to get around to doing it.

I guess it just goes to show that, while master storytellers may know how to weave a yarn that draws the listener in and keeps them rapt ''til the very end, they oft have the most trouble just telling their own tales.
- 6 July 2004

One of the most unique singer/songwriters in American music, Stan Ridgway is a true original. From his early days with L.A. art-punkers Wall Of Voodoo, to his even more intriguing solo career, Ridgway has created an impressive body of work. Some know him just as the long lost singer with the great Wall Of Voodoo, others as one of the great unsung maverick geniuses of our time. - MELODY MAKER

Stan Ridgway is one of the most unique and talented songwriters around. - RECORD MIRROR

Stan Ridgway is equal parts Raymond Chandler and John Huston, Johnny Cash and Rod Serling. - NME
A Snakebite Review

He''s been making records for more than 20 years, first with his band Wall of Voodoo, then on his own.

He''s just made his best record in years.

And that''s saying a lot. While he isn''t seen much on MTV much anymore and while he''s bounced around from label to label, Ridgway has produced a steady stream of fine albums, each one containing at least one song that''s a complete jaw dropper.
But the new one, Snakebite. basically is a jaw dropper from start to finish.

The album lives up to its subtitle, Blacktop Ballads and Fugitive Songs. Many of the songs deal with people who are trying to escape -- from the police in "Wake Up Sally," from bad relationships in the black-humor blues of "King For a Day," from terrifying political realities in "Afghan/Forklift" and "Monsters of the Id", from humdrum small-town life in "Running With the Carnival," and from a Union Army firing squad in "My Rose Marie (A Soldier''s Tale)."

Snakebite starts out with "Into the Sun," a breezy tune full of hope and promise. It reminds me of "Lonely Town," from Ridgway''s 1989 Mosquitoes -- except while the lyrics of that song were full of foreboding, "Into the Sun" is outwardly optimistic. The singer is driving to some desert home "where the coyote walks the toad/The tumbleweeds speak in secret code ... Out where the sagebrush sings our song."

His voice sounds full of confidence, and a harp in the second verse gives the lyrics a grandiose veneer. But the backdrop of electronic noise, sounding like some flock of prehistoric birds, hint at some gathering inner storm that threaten the singer''s scheme.

That sense of impending undefined doom -- "something in the air, moving like a southbound train" -- resurfaces in other songs. In "Afghan Forklift" a warehouse worker in Arkansas is overcome with that feeling when he notices two crates "marked Top Secret, headed for Afghanistan." We never learn exactly what''s in the crates, but apparently it''s serious enough to prompt the forklift operator to try (in vain) to call the president." A repeated minor-key folk lick, punctuated by Ridgway''s piercing harmonica and low French horns add to the sense of dread.

"Monsters of the ID," an inspired cover of a Mose Allison song are Ridgway''s main political statements on Snakebite. On "Monsters" he lets loose with the screeching, rumbling electronic noises (usually rising at the end of the verses), as well as horror movie choruses and some pretty impressive harmonica.

Singing in a lower register than usual, Ridgway moans, "The creatures from the swamp/Rewrite their own Mein Kampf/Neanderthals amuck/Just tryin'' to make a buck/And goblins and their hags/Are out there waving'' flags..."
While many of his characters are "fugitives" of one kind or another, Ridgway refuses to run from his own history. He sings of the band that launched his career in "Talking Wall of Voodoo Blues Part 1."

With guitars suggesting both hillbilly and Mid-eastern music relentless drums and rubbery keyboards, Ridgway recounts the band''s brief history -- from the innocent days of "punk-rock fun" to signing 200-page contracts, MTV ("Labor Day in Mexico/Lots of beans and drugs and friends") the pre-destined rip-off ("We played a show for 40 grand/And the manager took every cent") and break-up, for which Ridgway shares in the responsibility. ("I did my best to patch it up/But we were all just big assholes.")

While you can still hear the Wall of Voodoo echoes throughout the work, this is Ridgway''s rootsiest album ever. There''s a tasty country fiddle (played by Brantley Kearns) in "Wake Up Sally." "Crow Hollow Blues" with its sinister banjo sounds like Ridgway''s been listening to Tom Waits'' Mule Variations. "Your Rockin'' Chair" is basically a hillbilly stomp, though the subtle keyboard counterpart in the refrain plus the bamboo flute give it an otherworldly quality. Alison Krauss could do a fine version of "Rose Marie."

But the real trick Ridgway pulls off is combining these diverse elements without it feeling forced. He makes it sound like slide guitar and bamboo flute and spook house keyboards were meant to be played together

Steve Terrell -Terrell''s Tune Up
Sante Fe New Mexican

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