Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
ard Working Americans is a generic enough sounding term, conveying that you're part of the lunch bucket crowd. Part of a faceless pack instead of an individual. In reality, it's something of a misnomer for the sextet of the same name heretofore considered a side project. That's because they or in most cases, their other "regular" musical activities or bands, are far better known. But what may have started as a side project seems to be an on-going (and successful) concern.
Hard Working Americans, who just released their third disc, "Rest in Chaos," were more of a rock band than anything else live although they touched down into rootsy and country as well.
They were at their most country on the covers, including the raucous "Stomp and Holler" from Hayes Carll, Don Williams' "Come From the Heart" and "Blackland Farmer" from Frankie Miller with the latter including chunks of REM's "The One I Love." HWA also often delved into the swampy, a bit funky and sometimes rootsy (the harder-edged BR549 "Run a Mile"), although often with a rock edge.
Snider maintained his typical role of the stoner, free-spirited, hippy dippy type leading the charge. Whether real or imagined was beside the point. Singing with a bit of a drawl, Snider at times seemed in another sphere, often closing his eyes while digging down into the material. He may never be accused of having the most pleasing voice, but he put his all into it.
Barefoot and wearing a bowler hat, Snider was more than content to fade into the background to let his mates take center stage and display their wares.
No surprise given the talents of those who shared the stage. First and foremost was guitarist Neal Casal, who once upon a time did time with Ryan Adams & the Cardinals. Casal lit the up night with numerous lead guitar charges that were sharp, taut and meaningful.
And bassist Dave Schools of Widespread Panic also was especially sturdy, ultra active in setting the beat. At one point, he and Casal faced off for a while in one of the high points of the evening. Schools set the rhythm section with drummer Duane Trucks, who seemed to work the hardest without ever cracking a smile.
That also included newest HWA-er Jesse Aycock, whose pedal steel guitar (and guitar, where he had fewer opportunities) provided yet another opportunity for the band to stretch out.
Make no mistake about it. Side project? Maybe, but they treat it like an equal to their on-going activities. They more than lived up to their moniker.
Reed Foehl, ex-Acoustic Junction, opened with an engaging, free wheeling solo set where he took a few covers requests, including "Caroline," which he wrote with Esme Patterson.