Front Row Focus | Concert Review: Hard Working Americans (August 21, 2015)

Concert Review: Hard Working Americans (August 21, 2015)

September 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

ARTIST:  Hard Working Americans

VENUE:  New Mountain AVL - Asheville, NC

DATE:  August 21, 2015

Review By:  Hannah Bober

Photos By:  Steve Atkins & David J. Simchock

Hard Working Americans 2015-08-21 (Asheville, NC)Hard Working Americans 2015-08-21 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright Steve Atkins I have mixed feelings about Hard Working Americans.  By "mixed feelings", I mean that I am as equally blown away by this brilliant group as I am simply incredulous that I hadn't heard of them before.  I don't have a good explanation for the latter, but the former is easily understood by anyone who attended their Saturday night show at New Mountain Amphitheater.  More importantly, any lack of familiarity with the band held little weight once they stepped in front of the juiced-up crowd and began to rock.  It felt like a whole new world had been opened up for me, jam band style.  

At an outward glance, the venue was buzzing and practically rowdy with excitement and anticipation for the concert to begin.  A more intimate look, however, revealed the attendees to be as mellow, laid-back and as carefree as the relaxing mountain air.  Likewise were the guys everyone was there to see:  dressed casually in t-shirts and plaid, Hard Working Americans featuring Todd Snider (vocals), Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Dave Schools (bass guitar), Chad Staehly (keyboard), Duane Trucks (drums), and Jesse Aycock (guitar, lapsteel) entered the stage not carrying airs of importance, but rather an overall strong presence of character.  True to their name, Hard Working Americans encapsulate the spirit of blue-collar folks who know how to work hard and live to play hard.

Hard Working Americans 2015-08-21Hard Working Americans 2015-08-21© Copyright Steve Atkins Heavy bass and cymbals introduced "Mountain Song," which were followed by a lively keyboard riff.  What struck me most about this song was how I was no longer standing in front of the stage on which the band was playing.  Instead, I was driving through the countryside with my windows rolled down and the song blasting through the speakers, headed leisurely to nowhere in particular.  Despite this brief and enjoyable vacation from reality, there was certainly no argument from me when the band finished strong on the drums and I was brought back to the sounds, sights and smells of the incredible concert taking place on this summer evening.

The band gave way into a more blues-inspired feel with "Dope is Dope."  While still jamming at a casual pace, the energy they put forth was very hardcore.  With such an incredible sound both vocally and instrumentally, it was hard to believe that they even needed the microphones in front of them.  Although I was standing close to the stage, I knew that Snider could be heard just as clearly across the amphitheater as he could so close to me.

Hard Working Americans 2015-08-21 (Asheville, NC)Hard Working Americans 2015-08-21 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock
"Welfare Music" marked one by the band that I especially enjoyed that night.  A rock and roll folk tune, it made me wish I could listen to them turn every tale of hardship into a song of equal measure to this one.  Snider tore it up on vocals, and the guitar could have told the story whether the piece had lyrics or not.  I've said it before:  I'm a sucker for folk music.  This one got me, and I couldn't get enough of it.

Hard Working Americans 2015-08-21 (Asheville, NC)Hard Working Americans 2015-08-21 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock The moon was a crescent in the sky when the group rolled out a honky tonk-inspired intro for what turned out to be a more melancholy tune, "Blackland Farmer."  The deep bass and rolling smoke machines gave the stage a swamp-like aura, and an added element of mystery.  Melancholy easily turned to tranquility, as the crowd swayed to the music with smiles on their faces.  It seemed as though the song would go on forever, and I doubt there would have been much protest if it had.  Eventually however, the musicians swung back into the smooth rhythms of the intro and the mist cleared to reveal the enraptured participants of a rockin' zen experience.

The crowd's warmth and energy was answered in turn by the band, when Snider exclaimed, "We do appreciate you dancing for us!"  Everyone was more than happy to keep on dancing as the band launched into "Throwing the Goats."  The fast-paced jam was yet another captivating chapter in the story Hard Working Americans told that night.  Despite much of their music being inspired by the working man's blues, their message in no way illuminates the negative.  Instead, this laid-back group delivers their tunes soulfully, and in a way that brings joy and harmony to their audience.  And really, what could be more uplifting than Todd Snider with a flower in his hat?




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