In the course of popular music history, the breakthrough albums for several legendary artists were live recordings, most famously At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band, Frampton Comes Alive by Peter Frampton, and Alive by KISS. Now four decades later, history seems poised to repeat itself with the release of We’re All In This Together, the powerful, new live album by Hard Working Americans.
Hard Working Americans is the rock sextet some journalists dubbed a “super hero group” because of it’s high-profile lineup: bassist Dave Schools and drummer Duane Trucks of Widespread Panic, guitarist Neal Casal of Chris Robinson Brotherhood, keyboardist Chad Staehly of Great American Taxi, and celebrated singer-songwriter Todd Snider on lead vocals. Shortly after the release of their first album, HWA added Tulsa guitarist Jesse Aycock to the fold.
Listen to the new song and title track: “We’re All In This Together”
I tell you as good as I feel
there was a time when I was feeling so low down,
so down hearted,
I was feeling so emasculated by my botherations.
I knew that I needed an answer to my complication.
Having grown up in folk music I was raised to believe that the answer my friend was blowing in the wind.
So I went outside and I waited for it.
I went outside and I waited for it
I went outside and I was waiting for it
like la la la
I said I was outside waiting for it
You know what the wind told me hippies?
The wind didn’t tell me a fucking thing.
So much for folk music.
Next thing I know
a car pulled up along beside me
smoke coming pluming out the side.
Out the window come the ever loving graceful face of Mr. David Schools.
Riding with him in the car was Mr. Neal Casal.
Riding in the back of the car was Mr. Chad Staehly,
Riding right next to him was Mr. Jesse Aycock.
And for an engine of the car they was using Mr. Duane Trucks
It was a rollin’.
Dave said to me, he said, “Todd where ya going?”
I said “I don’t know.”
He said “well, then won’t you ride with us?”
I said “well where you going?”
He said, “we don’t know.
Only the difference between us and you?
We’re all in this together.”
He said “you know we’re all in this together.”
“We’re all in this together.”
Are you with me?
For the kind of band we are, I think this is a definitive statement for us. It captures a collective spirit, a collective muse being shared by a thousand-plus people.
-Todd Snider, 2017
The album was recorded by monitor engineer Colin Cargile during the band’s 2016 tour in support of their second album, Rest In Chaos. Schools served as producer, as he has on all of the band’s recordings, while John Keane, the legendary producer who mixed the band’s first record, handled the mix. “He’s done a lot of live Widespread Panic mixing,” Schools says of the choice to work again with Keane. “I picked the versions of the songs, then I turned it over to him.”
Most of the 13 tracks Schools selected are from a show at Iron City in Birmingham, Alabama, but the album also includes performances from concerts at El Rey Theater in Los Angeles (“Ascending Into Madness”), The Buckhead Theater in Atlanta (“Something Else”), and Lockn’ Music Festival in Arrington, Virginia (Chuck Berry’s “School Days”).
Trucks, who has an encyclopedic appreciation for great live albums, says he is “stoked” about We’re All In This Together. “I think we captured what the band is trying to do live,” the drummer says. “We have the power of the songs in a live setting and have a good picture of the exploratory nature of the band. That’s what you hope for.”
According to Staehly, HWA “caught fire” at the Birmingham show that yielded the bulk of the material on the album. “It was one of those nights when everything we had been working on as a band came together,” he says.
“Unhinged” is how Schools recalls their performance that evening before a capacity crowd of 1,300 people. “It’s a great little place,” he says. “The crowd’s right up in your face, and the sound is really good.”
Aycock remembers the “great vibe” in the room at that show. “From the get-go, you could just feel the energy radiating from the crowd,” he says. “And everyone was just so locked in. It was one of those gigs where everyone walked away from it and said, ‘That’s where it’s at.’”
Four of the songs on the record appeared on the band’s eponymous debut, while five are from Rest In Chaos. Two of the tracks are reworked versions of songs from Snider’s solo album, Peace Queer, which the band perform regularly, and there also is the aforementioned Chuck Berry cover. In addition, the album includes one brand new number, the title track, which grew out of one of Snider’s spoken word bits on which he transforms into some sort of rock & roll evangelist while the band vamps behind him.
“Todd puts a whole lot of thought into what we call the invocations, two of which are on the record,” Schools says. “One is the sort of introduction to ‘Stomp and Holler,’ and the other one, we call ‘We’re All In This Together.’ We decided to make it into a whole song because he really worked hard on that story.”
Snider’s story that became the album’s title track is a metaphorical tale of how he and the band found one another, as well as an expression of the band’s philosophy of inclusion. “The moral of the story is Todd being lost at sea, and this band coming together behind him and teaching him we’re all in this together and that we’re stronger together,” Schools continues. “I think that message resonates really loudly in this day and age, where people are so divided. The whole reason of Hard Working Americans, and everything we’ve discovered as a band, is that we’re stronger together.
We’re about to drop this live record, We’re All In This Together. We feel that it’s a very positive statement, and also a great testament to the power of a group. It’s also really Neal Casal’s finest moment. He is all over this record, as is Jesse, as is Todd. Everybody brought there A-game, and that’s terrific.
We’re trying to convey that message, and I think the album artwork — the cover of the festival crowd — and the chanting of ‘we’re all in this together,’ it’s vital. It’s a message that needs to be heard and remembered.
-Dave Schools, 2017
Well you know, I mean, I don’t think about it because in the moment if I’m really doing my job I’m not thinking about how much I like what I’m doing. If I am thinking about it in the moment it’s probably because I’m struggling with it due to cold fingers, or crappy sound, or it’s too hot, or ‘why is the sun out we’re a nighttime band,’ bla bla blah.
But I can tell you I really enjoyed playing “High Price of Inspiration” because of the different arrangement we came up with. It’s an acoustic song, 2 guitars and a voice on Rest In Chaos, but when we did it live it was like a tribal chant, and then a beautiful instrumental rendition of the melody. And it was just so evocative of sadness and loss, and the things that people do to get their creative juices flowing, and how those can be harmful.
I always like the new stuff. I really dig “Burnout Shoes” and the way that leads into “Another Train.” I really like it when Snider comes up with some sort of rap “invocation” that we didn’t see coming, and we just lay a groove down and let him roll. That’s one section during the show when we can become audience members, because he generally doesn’t tell us what he’s gonna do. Those can be really surprising, really funny, or really picant – like hot steamy salsa. That’s what I like.
The description of church I got as a kid – a joyous celebration of life and gratitude – was nothing like the reality of it, and I feel like this band is a spiritual outlet that lives up to the description. I feel like I’m the small part of a bigger thing. I think the deepest thing music does is make people dance and Hard Working Americans is here to make folks move.
-Todd Snider, 2016
Hard Working Americans has always been a mission as much as a band. Loose-limbed, freak flag waving specters caper inside this quicksilver evolving unit where the boogie politics of Haight-Ashbury canoodle with southern muscle, blue-collar understanding, and a bold rallying cry for true American individualism, freedom and community.
The group’s self-titled debut was released January 2014 and featured 11 inspired, timely compositions by standout but often overlooked composers like Will Kimbrough, Kevn Kinney, The Bottle Rockets, and more. In the beginning, HWA’s mission was shining a light on the folks that get missed in the modern shuffle.
The process accelerated once they took this bohemian revival on the road, something happily evident on the band’s concert film and live album The First Waltz. Directed by Justin Kreutzmann, the film offers an insightful, copacetic-minded snapshot of the band’s first chapter. But the title The First Waltz is telling. As anyone who’s seen HWA live, the longer this project percolates the more they discover “gears we didn’t know we could use,” as Neal Casal observed after a late night festival barn burner.
In 2016, the band proved its mettle with original material, releasing Rest In Chaos, and touring the 13-track collection Dave Marsh called “one of the most well-sustained albums I’ve heard in years.” “The transition to original music has been really easy because of how well and how quickly this band has gelled,” says Dave Schools. “We finished the first tour and went directly into the studio in Chicago in the dead of winter, which was great because we were trapped in there [laughs]! It’s this sort of psych-rock, riff-rock, garage-y sounding thing with hints of Americana song forms.”
The clear flow and friendship in Hard Working Americans is easy to see, and the gravity of what they’re doing develops a stronger, more irresistible pull the longer they serve this mission.
For me this band started as a way for me to learn more about songwriting. David was teaching me the trick of deconstruction. Which you might recognize with what Bob Dylan does to his songs.
And we decided that it would be worth it to record, and we put together a group of people that were into that kind of thing. To record. Then that group started to inform my next batch of poems that it seemed like we should do it together.
And then, that, Rest In Chaos, so much informed the songs I sat out here by myself and made up that we’re going to put out next year, that it also felt like it should be an HWA record. So, it went from being sort-of a songwriting seminar thing to being this place where I take my um, main work. Almost as if, like you went to study abroad and decided to stay.
When music becomes almost religious it doesn’t need to be a show. It can be a real experience, where the gathering before and hang afterwards all matter to the whole thing. I think it’s the highest calling I can put my ability to rhyme orange with door hinge to. I feel like I’ve been preparing my whole life to rhyme words for Dave Schools.
-Todd Snider, 2014
Hard Working Americans has detailed an upcoming Fall Tour in support of its newly released LP We’re All In This Together. The band will return to the road for a newly announced batch of concerts between September and November.
Vocalist Todd Snider, bassist Dave Schools, drummer Duane Trucks, keyboardist Chad Staehly, lap steel/guitarist Jesse Aycock, and newcomer guitarist Daniel Sproul are set to recommence touring alongside Tedeschi Trucks Band. This run of supporting shows in Texas will include Hobby Center in Houston on September 21, followed by stops at Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas, and The Moody Theater in Austin.
After that, they will headline at theaters and stages in Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Louisville, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. On November 3, HWA will rejoin Tedeschi Trucks Band on the West Coast. Stops include Portland, Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Fox Theatre in Oakland on November 17 for the final show of the tour.
In June of 2017, Hard Working Americans returned to the studio to finish tracking its 3rd studio effort. Recorded at Cash Cabin in Hendersonville, TN, where Johnny Cash cut some of his last works, the album will include songs Todd Snider worked on over the winter at his house by the lake, plus a never-before-published poem by Johnny Cash, set to music for the first time. The new record will follow the live album in early 2018, and the band is already writing new songs for its next release.
I’d like to see us make an album or 2 a year and play, you know, 50 to 90 shows, and become what I call a working concern. We just made an album at the Cash Cabin, so we have a bunch of new songs, and I feel like we’re going to go right back in and do some more if we can.
We like to keep one step ahead, that’s the trick. Snider is constantly writing songs and I’m constantly working on it. In his own words he wants every Hard Working Americans record to be like visiting a different planet.
-Dave Schools, 2017