Hard Working Americans, a new collective of musicians out of Nashville, TN, released their self-titled debut this week on Melvin Records/Thirty Tigers. Led by singer-songwriter Todd Snider, the band captures 11 songs written by notable country, blues, and folk-rock musicians and reinvents them as their own. Joining Snider is an all-star group of like-minded individuals representing a spectrum of styles: Dave Schools – bass (Widespread Panic), Neal Casal – guitar (The Chris Robinson Brotherhood), Chad Staehly – keys (Great American Taxi), and Duane Trucks – drums (Col. Bruce Hampton’s School of Music and of the Trucks family lineage).
Hard Working Americans is a smart and well planned selection of songs for an album intended to capture the spirit of what the band’s name suggests. This album is reminiscent of Johnny Winter’s 2011 comeback release Roots where Johnny covers blues standards with an all-star lineup of guest musicians varying between each song.
The performance on six of the tracks retain much of the feel and emotion of the original performances, though the sound is often more robust with added instrumentation. The other five tracks are significantly reworked making Hard Working Americans’ performance of them their own.
“Blackland Farmer” is electrified from an acoustic country tune to one with a straight-ahead blues feel while retaining some of those country elements on slide guitar. A similar rework was done on “The Mountain Song” though retaining less of the original country version. “Stomp and Holler” is slowed down slightly from the rockabilly style of the original with a harmonica solo taking the lead rather than guitar. “Straight To Hell” is performed in a way that gives it much more emotion than the original recording, though both versions are equally appealing in their own ways. “Run A Mile” is much like the original; however a fun twist is added mid song with a brief hard hitting interlude before returning back to its starting pace.
Hard Working Americans is an enjoyable, well produced album to listen to from start to finish. A notable feature of the album is the sequencing of the songs which works to tell a story of the blue collar American. As a debut cover album, Hard Working Americans has established the band as a capable new collective of musicians with a solid chemistry. Though the band does not have original material recorded yet it is anticipated that, given the talent of the band, it would be well received by music fans. Hard Working Americans is touring in support of their debut album and it will be interesting to see what what they bring to the stage aside from this album.
Track Listing: (Original performer in parenthesis)
- Blackland Farmer (Elizabeth Cook)
- Another Train (Will Kimbrough)
- Down To The Well (Kevin Gordon & Lucinda Williams)
- The Mountain Song (Kieran Kane, Chad Jeffers, Sean Locke)
- Stomp and Holler (Hayes Carll)
- Straight To Hell (Drivin’ N’ Cryin’)
- Welfare Music (The Bottle Rockets)
- Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man) (Randy Newman)
- Run A Mile (BR5-49)
- I Don’t Have A Gun (Will Kimbrough & Tommy Womack)
- Wrecking Ball (David Rawlings & Gillian Welch)
Key Tracks: Stomp and Holler, Straight To Hell, Run A Mile