Album Reviews

Hard Working Americans – The First Waltz

Artist:     Hard Working Americans

Album:     The First Watlz

Label:     Melvin Records

Release Date:     10/27/2014

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Veteran singer and songwriter Todd Snider formed Hard Working Americans in 2013. This, their second release, is a live concert recording and concert documentary on DVD. The group and this recording are a heart-felt, bone-deep tribute to American rock and roll, especially as represented and espoused by the Grateful Dead. As the album cover says, “The First Waltz arrives at a crucial moment to remind us that Jerry Garcia is as important as Ben Franklin and that rock ‘n’ roll is as much a birthright as the Constitution. – Dennis Cook”

The album’s opening track, “Blackland Farmer”, sets the tone for the entire set. It is an extended, stretched out tune that would do the Dead proud. The long guitar solos by Jesse Aycock and Neal Casal are seductive and hypnotic, the very essence of how the Dead have captivated audiences for decades. The sixth track, “I Don’t Have a Gun” is a brooding tune about a down and out drunken soul (“Drunk as I am it’s just a good thing that I don’t have a gun”) that is chilling and convincing. My favorite cut, “Mountain Song”, bare and simple lyrically (“Goin’ up to the mountain / for to find a little peace”), doesn’t paint a picture for you with words, but relies on the guitar mastery of Aycock and Casal to draw you in and let your own imagination expand. This long and engrossing concert closes with a rousing “Straight to Hell”, a brilliant “Wrecking Ball” and a beautiful “Come From the Heart” featuring Roseanne Cash.

On The First Waltz, HWA remind us why we love rock and roll, especially when it is served up live in concert by a bunch of talented, true-believer musicians.

– Robert Myers

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