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Published: 2014/01/21
by Brian Robbins

Hard Working Americans
Hard Working Americans

Melvin Records

I bet I could make you smile just by listing off the members of the Hard Working Americans: Duane Trucks on drums, paired up with bass monster Dave Schools; Chad Staehly on keys laying it down alongside of Neal Casal on guitar; and Todd Snider out front on vocals. (Oh – and toss in cameos by John Popper on harp, John Keane on some guitar and banjo, and Jason Crosby on fiddle and piano.)

Does that sound like the makings of a smoky, smiling, killer jam session, or what? Actually, things were more thought out than that, boys and girls: Snider assembled his band of rootsy jam masters with an eye to delve into some modern-day raggedy-assed tunes for the common man. Hand-picking tunes from the likes of Kevn Kinney, Will Kimbrough, Hayes Carll, Randy Newman, and David Rawlings/Gillian Welch, Snider and company holed up in Bob Weir’s TRI Studios and laid down 11 tunes that rock, roll, twang, chug, sweat, get their hands dirty and rip the knees out of their jeans.

Woody Guthrie would’ve loved this bunch: there’s talent galore, but no egos. What you have is a bunch of players getting it done for the sake of the songs.

“Blackland Farmer” starts things off all dark and swampy; “Wrecking Ball” ends it gently and wistfully, creaking the rocker on the back porch with the sun going down. Between the two, there’s chambray work-shirted crunch (covers of the Bottle Rockets’ “Welfare Music”) and powerful outlaw balladry (the brilliant slow build of “Straight To Hell”); there’s barroom swagger (“Stomp and Holler” features some wild blowing by Popper) and there’s a heady vibe to “The Mountain Song” that Jerry Garcia would’ve loved – I like imagining that’s him on banjo, even though it’s actually Mr. Keane.

“Mr. President Have Pity On The Working Man” could be Casal and Snider busking on a street corner in Memphis; Schools propels “Run A Mile” from bluesy stomp to a mad surf punk workout; Trucks’ drums sound bottomless and cool on “I Don’t Have A Gun”; Steahly’s keys are the key to “Down To The Well”; and Casal lets it fly with wild curry-flavored abandon on “Another Train”.

Hell, if this had been simply a one-off super session of good ol’ hippie boys, it would’ve been fun enough. Reportedly, the Hard Working Americans are taking it out on the road for awhile this winter … Lord only knows what’ll come after that.

But it’s bound to be a good time, whatever it is.


Brian Robbins creaks the rocker over at

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