The Hard Working Americans most definitely live up to their name, but like all good Americans, they also know how to let loose and have a good time. Consisting of singer-songwriter Todd Snider, Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools, Neal Casal of the Cardinals and Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Chad Staehly of Great American Taxi, and Duane Trucks (Derek’s younger brother and Butch’s nephew), the Hard Working Americans are something of a supergroup – at least in the jam band world. Their recent show at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin struck the perfect balance of a band really working to give their audience the best show possible while simultaneously enjoying themselves immensely onstage.
Instead of kicking off their two hour set with an original tune, the Americans gave the crowd a true Texas welcome with their cover of the Bob Wills classic “Stay A Little Longer,” a rollicking number that encouraged the crowd to “stay all night and dance a little longer.” With an appropriate tone for the evening now established, the band shifted into material off their only self-titled album with the loping, raspy “Blackland Farmer.” “Mission Accomplished” kicked high with a swaggering hook reminiscent of “Hey Pocky Way” before the biting rocker “Another Train” brought the energy up and saw the band firing away on their instruments.
Keeping it democratic, they sandwiched Todd Snider’s own anthemic “Is This Thing Working” right into the middle, allowing the singer to maintain a front row vocal spot in the jam session. The highlight of the set followed immediately after when the band covered one of this writer’s all time favorite bands, the Bottle Rockets, with their take on “Welfare Music,” a catchy, lyrically potent tune that they shined a new light on through their own extended improvisation. Another highlight came during the straightforward, slide-infused rocker “Run A Mile,” which gave way to “The Mountain Song,” a tune that climbed and climbed before reaching a psychedelic summit of pure enjoyment. The band hit a soaring group harmony to close out the set with their take on Todd Snider’s “Stuck On A Corner,” only to return to the stage moments later for a jammed out cover of Drivin N Cryin’s “Straight to Hell” that had the cheerfully intoxicated audience singing right along to the Southern rock band’s melancholy lyrics.
By the time the Hard Working Americans left the stage at Stubb’s they had made their mark and left the Texas crowd fully satisfied. Between Dave Schools’ thunderous bass notes and Neal Casal’s chameleon-like ability to integrate his guitar style into any song, there is no question that each member of this new group brings puts his own individual touch on the music. The best way to describe the sound of Hard Working Americans is an alt. country Grateful Dead with a shared affinity for Americana, country, and politically-edged lyrics charged by the downfall of the working man. The band hammered this sound home when they capped off their performance with their main single “Stomp and Holler,” a protest song that doesn’t shy away from having a grand old time and getting the good people dancing.
Photos by Maggie Boyd