Hard Working Americans
One of the more intriguing surprises as last month’s Moontower Music Festival was the latest transformation of Todd Snider. After years of solo concerts that embraced a brand of stoner folk that made him a huge Lexington club draw, the veteran East Nashville songsmith took to Masterson Station Park with an eight-member band dubbed the Eastside Bulldogs that fell somewhere between Joe Cocker’s 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen revue and T. Rex’s party ensemble rock ’n’ roll from the same era.
Instead of folkish musings and self-deprecating between-song stories, there were carnival rock and soul works like “Ways and Means” and “Come On Up” that came with backup singers, strong ensemble vitality and a shade of vintage Snider wit.
Snider returns to the region Friday night in another band, Hard Working Americans. Designed as more of a musical collective than the Eastside Bulldogs and promoted as something of a jam-friendly supergroup, the ensemble isn’t at all shy about who is its face and frontman. Literally. Pick up a copy of its 2016 album “Rest in Chaos” and what you see on the cover, in lieu of a group photo, is Snider’s hazy, sunglassed profile staring back at you.
There are, needless to say, many other participants at work in Hard Working Americans, including Dave Schools, known best as the longstanding bassist for Widespread Panic. It also sports a twin guitar sound courtesy of Daniel Sproul (who took over for Neal Casal in May) and Jesse Aycock, with keyboard colors from Chad Staehly (of Great American Taxi) and percussive support by Duane Trucks (younger brother of Derek Trucks and another moonlighter from Widespread Panic).
But live is where Snider has always thrived, and Hard Working Americans proves to be no exception, The band has released a new concert album in August titled “We’re All in This Together” that sports a pair of new Snider songs (the title tune and “Is This Thing Working?”) along with a loose, jubilant cover of the 1957 Chuck Berry delicacy “School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell).”
Snider and his all-star crew have been rubbing shoulders with other celebs on the road in recent weeks. At a Dallas concert with the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Snider shared vocals with group co-leader Susan Tedeschi on the boozy Rolling Stones staple “Sweet Virginia” while Aycock traded guitar licks with Derek Trucks on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s 1969 jazz classic “Volunteered Slavery.”
“We all knew each other a bit before we came together underneath this name and the ironic thing we thought it meant,” said Snider before a solo show at the now defunct Buster’s in 2013 as the band was forming. “I mean, here we were, all these total burnouts, and we’re calling ourselves the Hard Working Americans.”
Doors open at 7 p.m. Friday at Headliners Music Hall in Louisville for Hard Working Americans. The Steepwater Band will open.
Truckers and jazz
Try this for diversity: an evening of expert free improvisational jazz from the Chicago-based Ballister at the University of Kentucky’s John Jacob Niles Gallery and Center for American Music on Oct. 2 (7 p.m., free) and the return of Drive-By Truckers to Manchester Music Hall on Oct. 3 (7 p.m., $25-$55).
In Sunday’s Living section, Ballister saxophonist Dave Rempis and Truckers co-guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Patterson Hood check in to discuss the latest activities of these wildly different bands.