Artist: Hard Working Americans
Album: We’re All In This Together
Label: Melvin Records
Release Date: 08.04.2017
As live performers, Hard Working Americans live up to their name. “If you held a gun to my head and asked me if you should go to one of our shows or listen to one of our records,” lead singer Todd Snider says, “I’d probably say come to the show.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between the two because the band’s new album, We’re All In This Together, is a live recording that captures the energy that has helped HWA carve out a place on the jamband circuit. In addition to Snider, HWA features Dave Schools on bass, Neal Casal and Jesse Aycock on guitars, Chad Staehly on keyboards and Duane Trucks on drums. Schools is a founding member of Widespread Panic, and Trucks, Derek’s younger brother, is now Widespread’s full-time drummer. Casal is Chris Robinson’s go-to guitarist while continuing to explore other projects, including Circles Around the Sun. Staehly’s main gig is with Great American Taxi, for which Snider has been a regular collaborator.
The band came together somewhat spontaneously in 2013 by playing an impromptu concert at a flood relief benefit in Boulder, Colorado. That performance was captured live on the album The First Waltz as well as on film. Their 2014 self-titled studio release was an eclectic mix of covers, drawing from Randy Newman, Lucinda Williams, Dave Rawlings and many others. Shifting gears entirely, 2016’s Rest in Chaos was all original songs, penned mostly by Snider and influenced by the melodies and compositional talents of Schools.
We’re All In This Together, recorded in 2016 at the Iron City music hall in Birmingham, Alabama, samples all of the band’s previous efforts. “Mission Accomplished” kicks things off with a Bo Diddley beat, followed by the bluesier “I Don’t Have A Gun.” “Stomp and Holler” is the gut punch the title implies, but “Roman Candles” and “Ascending Into Madness” — both from Rest in Chaos — are more elaborately constructed songs. Slide guitar helps add a fresh take on the straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll of Chuck Berry’s “School Days.”
The title track is one of Snider’s wry, talky tunes that focuses on the members of the band being “in this together” along with the audience. Is there a larger message here for these polarized times? “Concerts are a little churchy,” Snider says. “It’s fun to get caught up in it, but I don’t have any hopes for what we do beyond a Saturday night. If something bigger is going to take place, it has a better chance of happening if it’s not the goal, if the group is there to play music.”
Expect more from Hard Working Americans. A tour is set to launch in September, and they’ve already recorded a new studio album that will be out next year. It can be difficult to get band members’ schedules to align, but things are falling into place. “I think this group is going to be doing a lot in the coming year,” Snider says. How could we expect anything less from Hard Working Americans?