Round up a few seasoned musicians from established bands and throw 'em into a studio with a batch of songs. Supergroup! Should work every time, right? Wrong. Remember that great album by Zwan? Yeah, me neither.
So when Todd Snider snagged four guys from other bands, including Widespread Panic's bassist Dave Schools, to form Hard Working Americans and record an eponymous album, no one knew whether it would fly.
The collection of songs Snider brought to the table (written by others) are loosely united by a blue-collar and no-collar theme, but there's a lot of variety here. Will Kimbrough's "Another Train" is probably the hardest rocking song Snider has ever recorded, with its pile-driving rhythm and crunchy guitars. The band rubs some dirt into the Bottle Rockets' "Welfare Music," infusing the song's melancholy with some real firepower.
Overall it's a solid, focused album with several high points. Hayes Carll's "Stomp and Holler" balances Chad Staehly's (Great American Taxi) whorehouse piano nicely with Neal Casal's (Chris Robinson Brotherhood) southern rock guitar as Snider sings, "I'm like James Brown, only white and taller/ All I want to do is stomp and holler."
The sweetest surprise here is Kevn Kinney's "Straight To Hell," a Drivin' N Cryin' power ballad that Snider sings with an almost uncomfortably intimate vulnerability. As the band gradually adds electric piano, drums and a soaring guitar solo, Snider explodes into a craggy, full-throated roar that's perfectly supported by the tasteful dynamics of this group of veterans. These guys obviously listen to each other. I think you should, too.