Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hard Working Americans - self titled: Album Review

I'll be honest, after I had already picked up a guitar one of the main reasons I kept with writing songs was Todd Snider. Couple that with a band that includes Neal Casal (guitarist for one of my favorite all time bands, the Cardinals and Chris Robinson Brotherhood), Dave Schools (on bass from of one my favorite jam bands Widespread Panic), Chad Staely (of Great American Taxi who I found through Snider, as they act as his insanely talented backing band), and Duane Trucks (yeah, that Trucks family...talented bunch...on drums). I mean, this is like a dream come true. The new record under their moniker of Hard Working Americans was recorded at Bob Weir's studio (Ok, come on now) and the songs are all by friends of the band...I mean, this is just too good to be true.  Correction, this is as good as it gets.

Snider has a certain, unpretentious swagger about him and his delivery of words. The way he annunciates phrases is understated and simple but suits the music so damn well. He has that natural gravel to his voice that only a hard earned singer can lay claim to. He is as authentic as it comes. And that band, man, they are just solid through and through.

Favorite Tracks

'Another Train' is a track I know from Will Kimbrough's more acoustic driven performances of
it...this is anything but. It rock's the hell out of the song and does it justice. The guitar wailing, the band is prime, and man...I can't think of anything else besides, this is rock n' roll ladies and gentlemen.

'I Don't Have a Gun' (another Kimbrough tune with his sometimes partner Tommy Womack) is a bit of a slow burn with a killer groove courtesy of the piano/organ pieces. A story type of vibe with Snider's rambling gruff voice dancing over the flowy feel to the instrumentation. There is a swimming, groove to the breaks, putting the band's jam bandground on full display but it does keep mindful of the fact that this is record. Just enough.

Gillian Welch's 'Wrecking Ball' gets an emotional-driven honest treatment from Todd Snider. The overarching theme to the choices for all the songs are that they are new takes on songs that these guys have come to appreciate, adore, and admire and it is no where as evident as in this performance. Snider's softly spoken intro with a lightly picked out acoustic guitar is delicate and vulnerable. Then band comes in just enough to fill out the depth of the track enough. It is a beautiful and humbling song to listen to.

Final Thoughts

This is just a fun, excellently performed collection of songs with a whole lot of love poured into it. The singing, the playing, everything is just top notch. The recording is solid, but not overly plastic. It suits the songs well. There is a nice balance of sonic qualities, some quieter stuff, some truly rocking stuff.

I f***ing love this album!

There are also gems from Hayes Carll, Frankie Miller, Randy Newman and more on this. Pick it up now.

The band is swiging through Boston this Friday, January 24th at the Brighton Music Hall. Be sure to catch these guys out on the road while you can. I will be there in full force and am pretty damn excited.

Check them out online at:

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