Triple Played: Hard Working Americans enjoy payoff with debut
One of the better new releases this year, in my opinion, comes from a band I had never heard of until recently. Most of you may not have heard of them either, but I’ll bet you know of some of the members.
Hard Working Americans released its self-titled debut recording on Jan. 21, and it quickly has become one of my favorites and a customer favorite too.
Todd Snider is the most recognizable member of the group and sings lead on all of the songs. Snider began his recording career in 1994 on John Prine’s label Oh Boy Records with “Songs for the Daily Planet.” Snider immediately established himself as a formidable songwriter with a sharp wit as well as a sensitive side with songs such as “Alright Guy,” “Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues” and “You Think You Know Someone.”
In the years since his debut, Snider has released 14 recordings with several — “Step Right Up”, “Viva Satellite” “Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables” and “Nashville Skyline” — receiving critical acclaim.
Neal Casal plays guitar and provides background vocals for Hard Working Americans. Casal had a fairly successful solo career starting in 1995 with “Fade Away Diamond Time” and has released 10 solo recordings. He also found time to be a part of Ryan Adam’s band the Cardinals, playing guitar and providing background vocals.
I first heard of Casal from his cousin, Duke, who gave me Casal’s first self-produced and self-titled CD. Duke used to accompany some of his other cousins to a hunting lodge were I was the cook. This was back in the early 1990s and pre-dated all of Casal’s bigger label studio releases.
Dave Schools is the bass player. Schools was the bass player for Widespread Panic since its inception as well as a guest player for Gov’t Mule, Jerry Joseph and the Jack Mormons and the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart. Schools was here when Widespread Panic made a Grand Junction appearance in 1995.
Duane Trucks is the drummer and percussionist. If that name sounds familiar it is because Trucks is the son of Allman Brothers’ drummer Butch Trucks and the younger brother of the phenomenal guitarist Derek Trucks of the Tedeschi Trucks Band and other groups, including the Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule.
Chad Staehly is the keyboard player. Staehly has been Snider’s keybord player for many years and also has performed as a session musician.
For this debut album, the Hard Working Americans completely relied on other songwriters for its material, covering songs from Hayes Carll, Will Kimbrough, Brian Henneman of Bottle Rockets fame, Kieran Kane, David Rawlings, Gillian Welch and Randy Newman. The recording works back and forth between electric and acoustic and has a real roots rock feel to it. The musicianship is excellent and Snider’s emotional vocals are a perfect fit.
Some of my favorite songs include Frankie Miller’s “Blackland Farmer,” Kane’s “The Mountain Song,” Carll’s “Stomp and Holler,” Kimbrough’s “I Don’t Have A Gun,” Kevin Gordon’s “Down to the Well,” Henneman’s “Welfare Music,” and Welch and Rawlings’ “Wrecking Ball.”
If you are in the need for some good new music, I would like to suggest the Hard Working Americans as a great place to start.