Alt-Country just got itself a Classic album.
Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way; the album cover looks like it could have been a Leon Russell Bootleg designed by a stoned hippie and the band’s name; Hard Working Americans is at best in poor taste and at worst patronising.
Now the good stuff; the band was formed and is led by Todd Snider who corralled a bunch of friends to create an album of songs by some of his other friends; that (in his opinion) deserve a wider audience; and by jings he has achieved that with bells on!
I instantly recognised, the opening track, Frankie Miller’s Blackland Farmer because it was a standout track on Elizabeth Cook’s 2010 WELDER album; but this version is a sleazy New Orleans romp that will help restore your faith in music.
Todd Snider may not have the sweetest voice, but it’s damn near perfect for songs like Down To The Well, which features some pretty mean bottle neck guitar, and Randy Newman’s Mr. President (Have pity on the working man) which bares absolutely no resemblance to the original; as Todd and the band turn it into a Country-Blues protest song.
In many ways this is something of a ‘concept album’ but not in a pretentious way; as the songs are all worked around the lives of the Blue Collar working class; including plenty of drinking, fighting and lurving.
When I first saw Straight to Hell on the track list I presumed it was the Clash song; it’s not and it is 20x better!
Written by Kevin Kinney it is sung in the first person and coupled with Neal Casal’s beautiful guitar backdrop it will break the heart of everyone who hears it. This is immediately followed by a boisterous version of the Bottle Rockets Welfare Music that will make you angry and delirious in equal measures.
For me the song that sums up Hard Working Americans (band AND album) is a new one to me; but one I’ve played over and over again; as well as bashing out on Social Media – the barroom boogie, Stomp and Holler starts with a thumping drum beat and just get louder and more powerful with a chorus just made for the live circuit and brave radio shows.
I genuinely can’t find fault with a single track here; with every interpretation bringing something new from Americana favourites and introducing writers and bands to a whole new audience.
How can I describe Hard Working Americans when, at different times they evoke memories of Jason and the Scorchers, Dr. John, Allman Brothers, Keith Moon, Green on Red and even Mott the Hoople!
Melvin Records MEL22347
Released 17th February 2014