Hard Working Americans – “Hard Working Americans”
Hard Working Americans is, apart from and before being a band name and a title album, an organic artistic project sprung from a precise musical concept. First, putting together eleven songs, conceived and written by outstanding Americana songwriters the likes of Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings, Hayes Carll, Will Kimbrough, Tommy Womack, Brian Henneman (The Bottle Rockets), Kevin Gordon, Kieran Kane, Chuck Mead (BR5-49), Kevn Kinney (Drivin’ ‘N Cryin’), Don Herron and Frankie Miller (Elizabeth Cook).
Songs that are lyrically crafted around the themes of a nation plagued by a global economic, social and financial crisis that mostly falls back into those, well, blue collar hardworking americans and generally all those who are struggling for a decent life.
Second, a supergroup of five all-stars jam musicians, each of them adding their great instrumental performing skills and jam band playing spirit , that reinterprets the songs and renders those apparently scattered tunes a unique and solid body.
Featuring rock singer Todd Snider, bassist Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), guitarist Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Ryan Adams), keyboardist Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi), and drummer Duane Trucks (Derek Trucks’ brother, Butch Trucks’ nephew), the album’s origin stems from an idea which Snider effectively synthetizes in these words “the songwriters in the Americana world were spending as much time on their poems as the jam bands spend on their tones and their solos. Why not put these things together? Why not combine the best songwriters with the best musicians?”.
The entire album exudes powerful Southern, Roots and Blues rock as in the biting rhythm of Will Kimbrough’s “Another Train”, reinventing it in a kinda Zeppelin approach, and they’re also hard rocking in “Run A Mile”. On the same line, Hayes Carll’s “Stomp And Holler” couldn’t be more raucous and foot-stomping, and Bottle Rockets’ “Welfare Music” is another rocker with the band here more inclined to keep it close to the original.
Full blues in Randy Newman’s “Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)” which is evidently central to the album’s message. In the beautiful, melting, Americana style Lucinda William’s “Down To The Well” , the band’s take is melodically sincere and goes straight to your soul.
And it’s a record that just doesn’t lack killer bluesy slower moments like the Elizabeth Cook’s opener “Blackland Farmer” with the slide guitar cutting the edge right from the start and the teary Drivin’ ‘n Cryin’s ballad “Straight To Hell”. Snider’s vocals smoothly and intensely lead the Kimbrough/Womack’s “I Don’t Have A Gun” as the piano harmonies gently flow, while the closing is put into the hands of an emotionally perfect interpretation of the acoustic “Wrecking Ball”, a Gillian Welch/Dave Rawling’s track.
Recorded at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios in San Rafael, CA, considering that Hard Working Americans is a covers album, it’s definitely a masterful piece of work, played by a stellar crew and with incredible arrangements. We can only hope this musical adventure may continue, wishing a segue with an all-original songs debut. Why not? After all, they’re Hard Working Americans, aren’t they?