Dan Baird is everything I love about rock and roll. “Three chords and a cloud of dust,” as his website proclaims. Including his stint as a solo artist, he’s occupied the lead spot in four of my favorite bands of the last 4 decades. If you wanted to package up his work in a time capsule for future civilizations to discover what rock and roll music sounded like, I’d have absolutely no problem with that.
He formed and fronted The Georgia Satellites in the ‘80’s, enjoying the peak of his commercial success with ‘Keep Your Hands To Yourself,’ 3 minutes of rock and roll resplendence Chuck Berry wished he’d recorded; put out 2 acclaimed solo records in the ‘90’s (including the brilliantly titled “Love Songs For The Hearing Impaired”, which Rolling Stone lauded for its “combination of foot-stomping redneck rock and slyly intelligent lyrics”); recorded a dazzling pair of criminally underappreciated records in the ‘00’s as leader of The Yayhoos; then starting in 2005 and up to the present he’s been out in front for Dan Baird & Homemade Sin, a band Alt Country described as “Completely unpretentious and totally irresistible” while Bullzeye cited with “If you happen to like good, loud, sweaty rock ‘n’ roll, this is as good as it gets.”¹
There was, however, a recent brief blip in Baird’s rambunctious near 40-year run, with his announcement in mid-2017 that chronic lymphocytic leukemia would sideline him from the road indefinitely. His plucky reporting of the detour to fans contained his characteristic punch: “Dern tootin I’m-a gonna give it a fight. I got a good piece of stubborn in me, might as well put it to a decent use,” he declared, before continuing with the no-nonsense ultimatum, “Skip the damn crying emoji, please. I’m the luckiest f*cker any y’all ever even heard of, and I know it.” Sure enough, just under a year later I attended a show at Hill Country in New York City where a steadfast and undeterred Baird, familiar top hat in place, was back leading the raging, roaring Homeless Sin and reminding me why I started liking rock and roll in the first place.
Baird’s return to health led quickly not only to a resumption of intense international touring, but also to new material from the band with 2018’s latest barn-burning record “Screamer.” Their prior album, a thrill-inducing squall of melodious clamor called “Rollercoaster,” which was produced before the unexpected hiatus, was simply one of the best swashbuckling sets I’ve heard this decade. And many agreed. Billboard declared “It’s been a long time since people made albums as fun, as strong , and as satisfying as this one,” and Classic Rock described it simply as “Amazing songs delivered with gap toothed, shit kicking passion.”² The first song I heard off of it, which remains my favorite, is ‘Licka Sense,’ in which Baird belts the should-be classic lines “What am I supposed to do with you / Are you deaf or are you dense / I’d get mad, if I thought you had, a goddamn licka sense.”³ You can put that blistering lyric, and this swaggering, balls-to-the-wall rocker, right at the top of the time capsule. Three chords and a cloud of dust, indeed.
¹still another Baird band, a one-off outing named The Riffing Cowboys, put out “Hank ‘N’ Roll: A Rock ‘n Roll Tribute to Hank Williams” in 2011 which was about 38 of the greatest music-listening minutes I’ve ever experienced.
²in addition to the oft-present top hat, Baird’s look is often identifiable by his beaming gap-toothed grin. Hey, it worked for Madonna.
³the line is actually delivered in the voice of Baird’s father, grappling with his then-young, quasi-delinquent son’s choice to go barreling down his budding rock and roll path.
An updated version of one you might remember