Hard Working Americans: Rest In Chaos

Hard Working Americans
Rest In Chaos
(Melvin/Thirty Tigers)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

If hardboiled novelist Jim Thompson had ever decided to front a rock and roll band, they might have sounded like Hard Working Americans. If you love stories of the broke, the broken, the alcohol-addled, the freakin’ fatalistic, sung and played by guys who know how vicious life can get, you’ll want this album.

Led by Todd Snider, these Americans don’t just deal with hard work, but a large portion of the population who live hard too. If they’re not trying tenuously to get sober, running with bad folks or just bad thoughts, they tend to be dead by song’s end. Take the noir-ish “It Runs Together.” This dark shuffle tells the story of two drunks whose lives go from bad to really bad. Only one is left alive to narrate at the finish. This darkly-comic storytelling is set against a memorable melody, a slide guitar sharp enough to cut diamonds and Snider’s scary stew bum vocal. Sure, it’s grim stuff. But after years of drugstore cowboys writing aural Hallmark cards, isn’t it refreshing to have an unhappy ending?

Then there’s “Half Ass Moses.” This rocker features a conversation between the narrator and God, with the Big Guy saying, “Screw it man, do it yourself.” Featuring fabulous harmonies and a smidgen of synth, this ode to the apocalypse is musically so adventurous, it’ll make most faux cowpokes quit and run home to mama.

Finally, when was the last time you heard a country song called “Ascending Into Madness”? Which lives up to its title? What With Snider’s Waylon-Meets-Waits’ voice, and the whole band lending scarily soulful backing, it’s a killer.

On Rest In Chaos, these two genres hit each other again with real force. Hope none of these Americans got hurt in the process. But, if you did? Guys, it was worth it.

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