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Hard Working Americans deliver at the Madrid Theater

Todd Snider, (right) lead singer for the rock band Hard Working Americans, played Friday at the Madrid Theater.
Todd Snider, (right) lead singer for the rock band Hard Working Americans, played Friday at the Madrid Theater. Special to the Star

If there’s such a thing as an obscure supergroup/cover band, the Hard Working Americans fit the bill.

The band comprises singer/songwriter Todd Snider plus musicians who are well-known in other music circles, including bassist Dave Schools of Widespread Panic; guitarist Neal Casal, formerly of Ryan Adams’ band the Cardinals and now a member of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood; Chad Staehly, keyboardist with Great American Taxi; and drummer Duane Trucks, brother of Derek Trucks and nephew of Butch Trucks, drummer for the Allman Brothers.

Of the several hundred people who attended the Americans’ show Friday at the Madrid Theater, most seemed to be there because Schools was in the room. Widespread Panic fans are as loyal and devoted as they come, even to the bass player. And at least a few of those I talked to didn’t know much (or anything) about the rest of the band, including Snider, the group’s lead vocalist and a much-admired songwriter in his own music world.

The Americans have released one album, a self-titled collection of covers issued in 2014. On Friday they opened with one of Snider’s songs, “Mission Accomplished,” then “Welfare Music,” a Bottle Rockets tune. They followed those with “Stomp and Holler,” a Hayes Carll song, then “Blackland Farmer,” a country song written by Frankie Miller.

The band’s style spans the Americana/roots spectrum, tapping into country, blues and jam-band rock. None of it was particularly inventive, but it was all as precise as it was free-wheeling, even the jams, which, for the most part, stayed away from long-winded noodling.

Snider, a master storyteller who likes to chat with his audiences, was untypically reserved most of the night, acting like just one of the boys in a six-piece band (though he danced along to some of the instrumentals). There were a few outbursts of recognition, like when they covered BR5-49’s “Run a Mile” and as they started “Is This Thing Working” and “Stuck on the Corner,” two more Snider songs.

The acoustics in the Madrid are usually clean, but the sound this evening could have used a little more polish. Lyrics weren’t always discernible, and a few times, instruments, like the lap steel guitar, got lost in the arrangements. Nonetheless, the crowd was engaged and animated all night.

They ended with a lively flourish: an encore that included a cover of “Wang Dang Doodle” (the Willie Dixon version) and then “Purple Mountain Jamboree,” a rowdy, jaunty jug-band anthem. That one bore a Southern rock/jam band flavor, like something off a solo album by JoJo Hermann, keyboardist for Widespread Panic. That’s essentially what this hard-working band does: mine the work of others to derive a sound that is familiar but its own.

SET LIST

Mission Accomplished; Welfare Music; Stomp and Holler; Blackland Farmer; Dope Is Dope; Down to the Well; Run A Mile; Someday Past the Sunset; I Don’t Have a Gun; Throwing the Ghost; Ascending Into Madness; Another Train; Is This Thing Working; Straight to Hell; Stuck On the Corner; Open Statement; Wang Dang Doodle; Purple Mountain Jamboree.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

SET LIST

Mission Accomplished; Welfare Music; Stomp and Holler; Blackland Farmer; Dope Is Dope; Down to the Well; Run A Mile; Someday Past the Sunset; I Don’t Have a Gun; Throwing the Ghost; Ascending Into Madness; Another Train; Is This Thing Working; Straight to Hell; Stuck On the Corner; Open Statement; Wang Dang Doodle; Purple Mountain Jamboree.

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