Retro Rock Never Sounded So New

P.D. Kelley

Opening for Hard Working Americans this past Sunday, November 5th was Jerry Joseph, one of the most fascinating musicians I never heard of.  He is one man small in stature but big in heart, talent and guts.  He’s been around awhile and had some true admirers in the audience with several fans yelling out, “We’ve loved you for twenty years, Jerry!”  His lyrics and musicianship have graced a number of groups to include Widespread Panic, his 80’s reggae band, Little Women, and more recently The Jackmormons.  Name a country in the world and he has probably been there playing his heart out.  According to his website, at one time he volunteered to teach rock music in Kabul, Afghanistan.  Really?  Who does that?  On this evening it was just him, his guitar and a booming voice playing a mash of Americana folk and rock.  His message is one of love and togetherness, and he would have fit right in to the 60’s protest movement as some of his content is political and he asked us to “think on these things.” It’s clear he has honed his craft over the years and what he does, he does well.  Apparently, he tours at least 150 days a year so if you see his name on the marque somewhere, make a trip to the box office.


Now about those Hard Working Americans.  They are, indeed, and delivered nearly two and a half hours of non-stop music with some songs rolling into another with no break even to rehydrate.  And lead singer Todd Snider could have used some liquid.  Half way through the performance his shirt was almost completely soaked with sweat.  Everyone on stage was all the way in on every song.  Awe-inspiring to say the least.  The sound is mostly hard-driving rock with touches of folk and country.  Jim Morrison was dead at 29 and buried in Paris years before some of these guys were born and yet I heard The Doors a bit, plus just a touch of other classic rock bands from the vinyl era.  And then this band has their own unique sound and it is really good.  I am basically an old person but I found myself toe-tapping and hip-twitching.  And it was loud!  Still liked most of it but I did need a nap afterwards.  The crowd, mostly young folks with a few gray hairs sprinkled in, LOVED it!  The pedigree on the band members is long and legendary.  Most have had solo careers and/or played well with others in addition to having famous musicians in their families.  His band mates refer to bassist Dave Schools as “our leader” and he is smooth and in control.  Great voice as well.  Drummer Duane Trucks is not flashy but oh so talented on the skins.  He pounded a riveting solo that set the house on fire. Lead guitarist Neal Casal also not flashy but so intense and driven in his playing.  I use the term “lead” with some provision as these men work so tightly together, ego does not seem to drive any individual musician.  On keyboards was Chad Staehly, demonstrating some interesting moves which I wish I could have seen more clearly.  The newest member of the group is Jesse Aycock on guitar and steel guitar.  Very sweet.  Already mentioned Todd Snider on lead vocals has the  perfect voice for this genre; a bit rough but still melodic and, like the rest of his mates, intense and committed.  Snider helped form the band in 2013 and I predict they are going to be one of the most influential and listened to rock bands of the decade.  Their fan base is growing and rightly so.


Catch you on the flip side…