Stages – The Snyder Family

When I first opened the Snyder Family Band’s new CD, titled Stages, before reading the CD jacket and listening to the title cut, the first thought that crossed my mind is that a family band which starts when the children are so young no doubt goes through many stages of development. This CD marks another stage in the group’s evolution toward becoming serious professional musicians.

The Snyders rely heavily on the instrumental abilities of Zeb, a 16 year old guitar and mandolin player, and Samantha, a 12 year old fiddle player and lead vocalist. They are joined by their father, Bud, on upright bass, and occasionally by their mother, Laine, adding harmony vocals. Stages features seven instumental selections, demonstrating a range of styles, leaning heavily on the Rice school of guitar, but also demonstrating that Zeb is being influenced by jazz and rock guitarists as well.

While it is a marvel that Zeb and Samatha would tackle a piece like Wyatt Rice’s Original Untitled, which they perform quite well, the fact that they are capable of playing such a song makes me anxious to hear what they will create for themselves as they move to performing more of their own original music.

I am not quite sure how old the Snyder children were when I first heard them, but a couple of years might as well be a couple of light years in the physical, mental and musical development they are undergoing at this age. The thing that struck me most when listening to the recording was how much Samantha has improved as a fiddler, and how much her voice has matured since I last heard the group. I’ve always been of the opinion that slow songs, more than uptempo songs, will expose flaws in tone, control and pitch, with either a vocalist or a fiddle player. Samantha demonstrates no such flaws and she really shines on Wren’s Waltz.

Cornering the market on cute, the last selection on Stages features 5 year old Owen Snyder. While it comes through his vocal performance, the fact that he may just be the family member with the most personality comes through in interviews with him that are part of a professional quality video.

I am tempted to suggest that the recording would be enhanced by additional performers, as there is no banjo or dobro, and many selections limited to the trio of guitar, fiddle and bass. However, I respect that they chose not to hide behind an all-star band of hired guns, and instead present the music just like it is presented in their live performances.

I didn’t start quite as young as the Snyder children, but I certainly benefitted as a teenage musician from the natural affection and support that most people feel for child performers. However, “cute” wears off and novelty only goes so far, and eventually a performer has to stand on his or her merits.

This recording demonstrates that the Snyder Family doesn’t have to rely on their youth to appeal to an audience — they can play, sing, and entertain. Whether the children outgrow their interest in music, become satisfied with where they are and stop working, or become great professional musicians remains to be seen, but this is good music and a snapshot in time that all of their fans will want to have.

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About the Author

James Gabehart

Jim has been playing the banjo, and other string instruments for nearly 40 years. Since joining the musicians union and becoming a performing musician at the age of 15, he won five West Virginia State Banjo Championships, as well as dozens of other competitions, and has taught hundreds of students. Jim was elected as Prosecuting Attorney for Lincoln County, WV in November 2012, and is an active touring performer with his wife and musical partner, Valerie. Learn more about their music at www.JimandValerieGabehart.com.

  • How wonderful to see such a talented family that seems to genuinely enjoy one another! Thanks for the great article, Jim.

  • Buck Green

    Great Review Jim….Call the Opry and get them on, They would become instant overnight sensations. I agree woody in the above comment They really enjoy doing their music. It Shines through

  • Karl Cooler

    Jim:

    Thanks so much for a great review of the Snyder Family’s newest CD, Stages. Mountain Roads Recordings is so proud to have this talented family associated with our record label. They are great ambassadors for the music and we just love them. Karl & Gail Cooler