PHOTOS AND TEXT BY TODD GUNSHER
By the time Hard Working Americans rolled into Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre on August 18th, they were already living up to their name. Since starting their High Up On It tour in Richmond, VA, this was their fifth show in six days, and they only have one day off before ending the tour on the 30th in Colorado. [Tour itinerary HERE] At that point the members of this ‘jam-band’ supergroup, Todd Snider (singer/songwriter/raconteur), Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood), Dave Schools and Duane Trucks (both of Widespread Panic), Jesse Aycock (solo artist) and Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi) will return to their ‘real jobs’, some hitting the road again within days of ending this tour. Yes, these are some hard working Americans.
After opening the set with the beautiful Gillian Welch/David Rawlings ballad “Wrecking Ball,” the band set the tone for the rest of the evening with Hayes Carll’s “Stomp and Holler.” Most of HWA’s repertoire consists of the band’s favorite songs by underappreciated songwriters they are fans and friends of (along with a few of Snider’s songs), most also dealing with the plight of the working man. What makes it work is the fact that they all become Hard Working American songs, and they are sounding better and better as the band spends more time together. Casal and Aycock each had plenty of time in the spotlight, with Casal’s clean lines contrasting nicely with Aycock’s dirty lap steel. During the instrumental jams, Snider definitely likes being the singer in a jam band, as evidenced by his barefoot hippie-dancing during the instrumental jams. These guys definitely enjoy their work, there were smiles onstage all night.
Encoring with “Purple Mountain Jamboree,” followed by Kevn Kinney’s Drivin N Cryin classic “Straight to Hell,” complete with the audience singing along on the chorus, they sent us home on a high note with a staple of Todd Snider solo shows, “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance.”
In these highly charged days of bad news, protests, and politicians pandering to us a year and a half before an election, it’s worth noting that about 30 minutes into the set, Snider prefaced “Welfare Music” by saying, “We haven’t come here to protest anything… which technically means we’ve come to celebrate every fucking thing.”
Celebrate we did, Tuesday night in Raleigh never sounded so good.
Todd Gunsher is a Raleigh-based photographer, journalist and musician. Check out more of his HWA photos and other equally fine cultural/musical subjects at his Flickr page. (We especially recommend his Schoolkids Records portfolios…)