NPR : Programs

Filed Under:

On 'Hard Working Americans,' Songs For The Ordinary Joe

Play associated audio

Hard Working Americans is a new quintet formed by singer-songwriter Todd Snider; it includes Dave Schools from the band Widespread Panic and Duane Trucks, whose family includes members of The Allman Brothers Band. On its self-titled debut album, the band covers 11 songs by well-known songwriters, and the result coheres as a statement of both solidarity and fun.

Halfway through the album, Snider's voice leads Hard Working Americans through a loud, roughed-up version of a song written by country-folk singer Hayes Carll called "Stomp and Holler." It's one of many songs that concern the plight of an ordinary Joe — a hard-working American — who just can't seem to catch a break. This collection certainly hammers home its obsessive theme, but you can't accuse it of lacking a sense of humor or resourcefulness.

When country singer Frankie Miller sang "Blackland Farmer" in the 1950s, he sang it like a shrewd fellow tilling the soil who's never expecting to be treated fairly by the world. In Hard Working Americans' version, the song becomes a slightly more sinister, blues-tinged ballad. Duane Trucks' drums dig the furrows deep into the earthiness of the melody, while Snider's vocal makes the narrator seem a little resentful — and perhaps even a little dangerous — around the edges. Snider has just the right edge in his voice to pull off a song such as Randy Newman's "Mr. President Have Pity on the Working Man," as he conveys the composition's full resentment at having to ask for the help of a leader who's too lofty-minded to listen, let alone care.

The sound of this quintet is a canny fusion of folk, rock and the sort of languid yearning at which so-called jam-bands excel at their best. These range from The Allman Brothers Band to bassist Dave Schools' band Widespread Panic. Snider's influence keeps the music tart and springy, and he's a fine editor and musical anthologist, cherry-picking appropriate material and then working out new arrangements with the rest of the band.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

The Glimmering Sheen Of A Wide World Seen From Inside A Bubble

The teen heroine of Nicola Yoon's debut novel, Everything, Everything, has a disorder that bars her from leaving her house. Still, her world is vast, filled with writings, drawings — and new love.
NPR

Correction: Italians And Celiac Disease

A correction to our story about gluten-free options in Italy, the land of pizza and pasta. Italian children are not routinely tested for celiac disease, as we incorrectly reported.
WAMU 88.5

America's Tolerance For Gun Violence

There are more gun-related deaths in America than in any other industrialized nation. We discuss what makes the U.S. different and why some hold out hope that change is possible.

NPR

China Arrests Nearly 200 Over 'Online Rumors'

The rumors ranged from a man leaping to his death in Beijing over stock losses to highly inflated death tolls in the Tianjin industrial blasts.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.