Songwriter goes back to his folk singer roots for third volume of ‘Cash Cabin Sessions’

For a while after Todd Snider first visited the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee, he had a recurring dream about Johnny Cash, which inspired him to record two albums in the country legend's famous cabin. But for Snider's third installment, Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3, the songwriter cast off the full-band, alt-country trappings of his recent projects and entered the sacred space all on his own, with just acoustic guitar and harmonica in tow.

The album is a return not just to Snider's folk singer days, but to the days of Guthrie and Seeger, though Snider wisely avoids an over-reliance on old-timey, corn-silk nostalgia. Despite calling a song “The Ghost of Johnny Cash,” he's not conjuring his heroes here; he's picking up where they left off, and he sounds at ease doing so, letting his lived-in, lightly lisped voice do most of the work.

As usual, Snider wraps his castigations with dry humor such that they sound less like searing indictments and more like cheeky punch lines. Take “Talking Reality Television Blues,” which traces a narrative from MTV to the presidency: “One after another we pretended not to act/As we hurtled ever forward toward alternative facts/Then a show called ‘The Apprentice' came on and pretty soon/An old man with a comb-over had sold us the moon/And we stayed tuned in, now here we are/Reality killed by a reality star.” (Safe bet)