Album Review: Hard Working Americans by Hard Working Americans
Fairly Good, Based on 5 Critics
AllMusic - 70 Based on rating 7/10
While Todd Snider is best known as a witty and insightful songwriter, in 2013 he gathered together a handful of friends who are also gifted musicians and let some of his favorite songwriters do the talking for a change. Hard Working Americans is a new band that features Snider on vocals and guitar, along with guitarist Neal Casal (of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood), bassist Dave Schools (from Widespread Panic), keyboardist Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi), and drummer Duane Trucks (King Lincoln). For their self-titled debut album, Hard Working Americans picked 11 cover tunes which deal with the hard truths of life among the working class, some recent compositions, and other, older songs that have remained relevant with the passage of time.
Todd Snider specializes in bitingly funny, populist country-rock storytelling (his 2012 album Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables was a vivid Great Recession indictment). Here, he convenes a tough, versatile band for a set of rootsy, lefty covers like the Bottle Rockets' "Welfare Music" and Frankie Miller's desperate 1959 hit "Blackland Farmer," which is redone with taut New Orleans swing. The highlight is a country-blues take on Randy Newman's "Mr.
Hard Working AmericansHard Working Americans(Melvin/Thirty Tigers)3.5 out of 5 stars This ad hoc group of talented roots rockers is fronted by the perpetually shaggy Todd Snider. He leads Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, guitarist Neal Casal, drummer Duane Trucks and keyboardist Chad Staehly through eleven predominantly obscure covers that lyrically and musically are thematically linked to the “hard working Americans” conceptual banner. These tunes are written and played by under-the-radar Americana artists, about the blue collar class striving to better themselves despite oppressive economic and sociological odds.
Hard Working Americans are a cover band fronted by idiosyncratic singer-songwriter Todd Snider and a group of musicians recruited from the rootsier side of the jam band scene. Guitarist Neal Casal has played with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Dave Schools is the bassist of Widespread Panic, Chad Staehly plays keyboards in Great American Taxi, and Duane Trucks is the drumming nephew of Allman Brothers’ drummer Butch. Snider being Snider, he’s chosen an unusual set of mostly lesser-known country and roots-rock songs for his band to cover.
In a BLURT interview recently, Todd Snider bemoaned the fact that he never had a full band to work with. Always a solo folk rocker, more often than not he’s the only one on the stage night after night – with the rare exceptions when he can cajole a drummer and a few other to back him up. But even then, he was always calling the shots. Well Snider has finally rectified the situation thanks to a few like-minded music buddies with gaps in their respective schedules.