Todd Snider’s Soul Shines on the Hard Working Americans Live LP “We’re All in This Together” … Historically, live albums sometimes take a backseat to the studio produced works, unless the band is already a worldwide phenomenon. The rockin’ blues artists of Hard Working Americans (HWA) have released their second live album “We’re All in This Together” (Melvin Records) and it has totally disproved this theory. The thirteen track gem showcases what HWA are known for… a rowdy, live show packed with monster tunes that encourage crowd participation and a psychedelic ride into their world. The bands’ personable and sometimes loquacious storyteller, singer, songwriter, poet Todd Snider effortlessly relates to the blue-collar fan base at every show. With Dave Schools (Widespread Panic) on the bass, Neil Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood) on guitar, Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi) on the keys, Jesse Aycock on guitar and Duane Trucks (Widespread Panic) drumming… to label this project a “supergroup” would be an understatement.
The LP gets a kick-in-the-ass, shotgun start with an Elvin Bishop junkin’ jive guitar style on “Mission Accomplished”… a nine minute jam session. Then blasting into “I Don’t Have a Gun”… complete with a crowd sing-along chant of the lyric “I don’t wanna hurt nobody” and a Reverend Todd Snider welcoming sermon to his hippy congregation. Snider was preaching about “walking forty-seven miles of barbed-wire…wearing a Cobra snake for a necktie”… before asking his followers “Who Do You Love” before belting-out the Hayes Carll penned classic, “Stomp and Holler”, to a raucous crowd approval. Slowing the pace down just a bit with “Roman Candles” and pulling the listener back in with the momentum building track “Something Else” with their signature extended guitar jam crescendo. The trippy, drinkin’ retrospective “Ascending Into Madness” tune boasts splendid harmonies and echoing guitar effects with some divine dual pickin’ with some serious heart-felt vocals from Snider. One of my favorite tracks from their 2016 offering “Rest in Chaos”(Melvin Records), “Burn Out Shoes”, is slowed-down just a bit from the studio version, but it adds to the overall psychedelic ride of the album perfectly… with some tasty bits of distorted riffs to boot. With little pause in the set, Snider leads directly into the classic blues tune “Another Train” and mighty guitar work was sure to follow. Somewhat disappointing, to a small degree, there was no dive into the Merle Haggard classic “Working Man Blues” as it is on “The First Waltz” (Melvin Records) album, but Casal and Aycock lay down a blistering dual solo that almost made me forget about The Hag’s tune…almost. Reverend Snider’s “preaching” starts again with a not-so-subtle jab at folk music. He says, “..I needed an answer to my complications. Having grown-up on folk music, I was raised to believe that the answer, my friend, was blowin’ in the wind. So, I went outside and I waited for it..I went outside and I waited for it… You know what the wind told me hippies??? The wind didn’t tell me a fuckin’ thing. So much for folk music”. Snider proceeded to introduce the band with a short story about bassist Schools providing the inspiration for the albums title track. The tune then starts a call-and-response chant between Snider and the crowd alternating “We’re All In This Together” several times. The storytelling continues with the song “Is This Thing Working?”… seemingly an ode to puttin’ a whoopin’ on a schoolhouse bully. Once again, featuring some blistering guitar solos with a dash of “Another Train” riff at the end. One of Snider’s’ solo efforts, “High Price of Inspiration”, is performed at a snails-pace which adds a trippy and eeriness spirit to the track. It’s a spectacular rendition that certainly rivals the original. The beautiful vocal harmonies and a classic “cowboy riding into the sunset” western movie vision with the twangy guitar pickin’ making this one of the best tunes on the LP. The boogie-swaggering tune “Run A Mile” has a hard act to follow from the last tune, but it hold its own with a catchy groove and more guitar work than I was expecting. The finale of their second live LP was a cover of the Chuck Berry blues staple “School Days” that showcases all the magnificent talents each artist contributes to the band.“Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll”.
These band mates work so well together its as if they have been a band for decades… all are veterans of the industry and are clearly masters of their crafts. From Snider’s witty and very un-politically correct lyrics… to the backbone of Schools, Trucks, and Steahly and the monster guitar duo of Casal and Aycock, HWA are nothing short of one the best live shows to behold and this live LP, “We’re All in This Together” captures it perfectly.
If you will be in, or around, the Raleigh, NC area on October 1st, HWA will be performing at The Lincoln Theater. You know it will be one helluva party and its on a Sunday evening… so you know the preacher gon’ preach. Check ’em out at www.thehardworkingamericans.com to find a show near you and peruse their catalog of righteous jams. The HWA artists are still following their passion and the camaraderie with this veteran group of musicians is clearly evident. Snider has been entertaining his fans since the 1994 powerhouses “Alright Guy” and “Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues” that portrays a 90’s band that refused to perform… the lyrical cleverness of Snider seems limitless. We are all looking forward to the next HWA production.
Review by Rob Grissom for 3dotmag.com