There has been a lull in our effort to find a new band every week, and there’s good reason for that. The past few weeks, I’ve been consumed with new music from musicians I’ve known about for quite some time. It hasn’t left much time for finding new material, especially when all I want to listen to are two specific new releases. So they aren’t technically new bands to me, but the music is new to me. That’s gotta count for something.
There was a little bit of discussion about Hard Working Americans on Episode 96: One of the Good Ones, but with a little more time to listen to the album, the more I like it.
Yeah, I know, what you’re thinking. The moment someone starts enjoying something resembling a jam band, it’s time to start checking the mailbox for that free subscription to AARP Magazine. So be it.
I bought the digital download of this album on iTunes, but I think I made a mistake. Not having the package in my hands, has denied my opportunity to experience it with all five of my senses. This bothers me because I’m almost certain when I open the packaging, I’m going to be blasted in the face with a record-jacket fart flavored by indica and Nag Champa incense blended with a mild patchouli, the moment the seal is broken.
The members of Hard Working Americans are no strangers to any of that mess.
Dave Schools is the bassist for Widespread Panic.
Neal Casal also plays guitar for Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
Keyboardist Chad Staehly also plays for Great American Taxi.
Duane Trucks of King Lincoln is the drummer.
Then there’s Todd Snider, the band’s vocalist and dance machine, who put this project together with the help of Schools and a bunch of songwriters he admires.
The Hard Working Americans songs aren’t technically their own, but they do their best to make it theirs. In some cases they make a very good case, much the way Jimi Hendrix did with All Along the Watchtower. Nobody thinks about Bob Dylan first when someone mentions that song.
The songs are were chosen for their content first and foremost. Snider claims to have been collecting songs for years, and the ones used on this album are from that collection of songs. The music woven around those words was just icing on the cake.
Musically it might be lumped into that jam band slot where the band members are already well known, but defining it does it a disservice no matter how its done. A good song is a good song, and there are a lot of them on this record. There are even a few earworm-worthy tracks on it.
There’s nothing especially special about Hard Working Americans other than the great lyrics and basic, straight-forward, rock sound, but isn’t that enough?
Stomp and Holler has been one of those for me. I just can’t shake it from my mind. Here they are doing it live on Conan. Watch for the great James Brown line near the end.
This is one of a series of promo videos that go behind the scenes on the making of the album and the formation of the band in general.
Scott H. Biram does whatever the hell he wants to do, and we’re all better off for it because we get to experience what creative freedom can bring us when in the hands of a master of his craft.
Nothin’ But Blood is another in a string of masterpieces from Biram. That’s this reporters opinion anyway.
Sometimes billed as The Dirty Ol’ One Man Band, Biram uses little more than an antique guitar, a stomp board, a tambourine, and a few other basic noise-makers, he blows audiences away.
The best part about Biram is unlike many other artists who perform in ways some might call gimmicky, like a one man band, his music isn’t limited to just being enjoyed live. It transcends any kind of gimmick label someone might try to slap onto it.
Listening to a Scott H. Biram album is kind of like being the star of a horror film. You get a few minutes of peace to reflect on what’s happened, think about what might happen, and experience a little anxiety to boot; then it’s back to being chased down by the hounds of hell obsessed with tearing out your soul.
Songs range from something you might hear on Sunday morning in a small country church somewhere in the south, to demon-possessed metal and punk.
Like I said in the beginning, Scott H. Biram does whatever the hell Scott H. Biram wants to do.
He’s not only good for his own original work on each album, but he has a habit of recording a few blues standards as well. This time he does a classic from Mance Lipscomb, called Alcohol Blues, and the much better known blues standard Backdoor Man.
He invites Lipscomb’s song with some updated lyrics and a fit of rage that makes you afraid to adjust the volume one way or the other until the shouting is done. That moment comes 5 minutes and seven seconds after the song begins.
My first time really listening to Nothin’ But Blood was the day I bought the limited-edition, red vinyl, LP. I had a bit of a sonic experience while listening. It’s noisy at times, but still manages to be a clean recording that sounds great on decent equipment.
There are some piercing feedback moments in songs like Around the Bend, which were artfully crafted, well executed, and powerful enough to make my sour puss smile.
Alcohol Blues (Until it gets shutdown)
Mance’s original Alcohol Blues
As always, you can follow along on our #APCNewToMe Spotify Playlist.