After ten years as front man for the Georgia Satellites, Dan Baird decided to fire himself from his own band and head out on his own. The Satellites were a four-piece kick arse southern rock outfit hailing from Atlanta, Georgia and were renowned for combining the more subtle elements of country music with a hard-edged rock and roll delivery. Despite a well received debut album and a couple of chart singles, following album sales never reached the level the band deserved and in 1990 Baird walked into the musical sunset and the band came to an end. Guitarist Rick Richards went on to work with Izzy Stradlin of Guns ‘n’ Roses fame but as the front man and chief song writer it was Baird that was in the spotlight, great things were expected of him.
His first album, “Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired,” did contain a small hit in the form of “I Love You Period” (period being the American word for the full-stop) but it was, in my opinion, the second album “Buffalo Nickel” that Dan began to deliver the goods. After a wait of four years between the first and second album, 1996 the album re-united a few old names from Dan’s past. Keith Christopher plays bass and although not an instantly recognisable name his claim to fame is that he was a founder member of the Satellites but was out of the picture by the time a record contract came along. Mauro Magellan covers drums, the long term Satellites tub-thumper and Brendan O’Brien handles guitar and keyboard duties.
“Younger Face” leads us in and as the bands opening salvo hits you those in the know will feel as if the Georgia Satellites never went away. It may be a different band but that same combination of melody, passion and raw rock attitude is still alive. Guitars are big and distorted and the back line musicians deliver a powerful beat as Bairds forceful vocal muses on being over taken by the next wave of rock and roll heroes. But I can’t imagine any young band having the worldly wise way that this band has about it, age has its advantages, these guys feel like they have been around a bit as they deliver this effortlessly laid back rock. A more up-tempo and borderline funky groove follows in the form of “Cumberland River”, again only a stones throw away from old Satellites stamping ground. O’Brien drives the song relentlessly with his country licks as Bairds rich vocals make this a tap along, dance along, sing along if ever there was one. Funky breaks and bluesy slide guitar riffs add something new to the music but essential its Dan Baird doing what he does best.
The sparser refrains of “I Want You Bad” come on like a country version of AC/DC, straight four-four-time rock and roll complete with obligatory guitar solos and toe tapping rhythms. The flavour of the album has now been firmly established and it feels like the old days have returned, Baird is on form and all is well in the world. “On My Way” is blues with attitude and “L’il Bit” is almost a mix of country and old style punk. If the old punk dance craze of the pogo ever merged with line dancing, then this would be the song to do it to, but that’s too dreadful to think about, but I think you get the idea.
It’s not until the sixth song of the album “Hell To Pay” that the pace changes. Rock credentials firmly established Baird now treats us to a groovy slow paced rock riff-a-rama and shows that he has a subtle and laid back side. “Woke Up Jake” takes us back to the big guitar wall of noise, the song struts along brashly and Bairds southern drawl moves from snappy delivery to smooth harmonies, as the song requires. Sultry slide guitar opens “Birthday” and the band deliver what must be the most unusual song on the album, part blues, part heavy metal, part sing along it’s a strange hybrid, but I suppose it shows that Baird is not content to just hide behind the tried and tested and still pushes into new ground a bit.
Raucous rock again with “Hush” and this song may be familiar to some of you. Re-popularised by Crispin Mills and his Indian fixated band Kula Shaka this is actually an early Deep Purple song. Here though Baird manages to sound like neither of those two bands and gives it his own flavour. “Trivial As The Truth” is back in a more country rock vein; O’Brien puts some nice guitar riffs weaving through the gaps in the lyrics and the song rocks along in a typical southern style. The album rounds off with “Hit Me Like a Train” a powerful kick-drum driven tune with an interesting collection of time signatures and a slight off the beat pattern, an interesting song to put to bed a great album. But not quite. There is a bonus track, if you can call it such. Coming on like something from the sound track of “Brother Where Art Thou” this untitled hillbilly romp sounds like the boys having a bit of a laugh in the studio, everyone gets to sing and a good time is had by all.
If you are of and age where by you remember Dan Bairds glory days in his previous band then this will be a welcome return to those days. For those unfamiliar with that slice of the past it’s still a good rocking album, a mix of power and subtlety, out and out rock and fine guitar play. In a world of Robbie Williams and whoever the latest five-minute wonder is its good to know that there are still some people out there that keep the spirit of real music alive.