Without knowing it, I’ve been a Dan Baird fan since the early ’80s, not knowing that much about the guy that sang “Keep Your Hands To Yourself”, but I knew that it was a catchy tune, and that I liked it. Around the time of Baird’s first solo album release, Love Songs For The Hearing Impaired, I was curious about the record being billed to the “ex-Georgia Satellites frontman”, and finally was properly hooked onto the Baird bandwagon.
From that point, I have kept up with Baird’s output, and one of the most satisfying projects to hit my ears, has been his “supergroup” collaboration called The Yayhoos, which grew out of being the backing band for Baird on his tour supporting Buffalo Nickel. The band finally released Fear Not The Obvious, an album that had long been on the shelf, in 2001 on Bloodshot Records.
The band features Baird on vocals and guitar, former Del-Lord Eric Ambel on guitar, who has also been logging lots of road miles playing guitar for Steve Earle, songwriter Terry Anderson on the drums (co-writer of Sats hit “Battleship Chains”), and Keith Christopher (Kenny Wayne Shepherd) on the bass guitar. The band is a bunch of guys with a deep discography that bring you the world’s greatest bar band this side of The Smithereens. What is unique about the band is that they trade off vocals from track to track, so that while Baird might have been the most notable player initially in the band, each member definitely brought a unique voice and songwriting style to the band that made Fear Not The Obvious a great mixed bag of tunes with truly something for everyone.
The band logged several years and many dates on the road behind Fear Not The Obvious, and the result is a new album Put The Hammer Down, which feels more like a proper band album from a unit that really had a chance to develop these songs on the road, and in the studio. The album opens with “Where’s Your Boyfriend At”, a track that has the signature Baird sound and that familiar driving guitar riff that I have heard in many a Baird tune. “Right As Rain” is another Baird track on Put The Hammer Down that is unmistakably Dan, but is a tune that really features the best of what makes The Yayhoos great, and all of the guys really step it up on this song, and the results are an instant classic. “Right As Rain” puts you in the studio with the guys playing around you on a late night with several beverages already having been put away.
Put The Hammer Down also includes a couple of cover songs that were in the set on the last couple of tours for Fear Not The Obvious. The cover of “Love Train” is not much of a stretch for The Yayhoos, and is just as much fun as the original tune, with a dose of Yayhoos style added for good measure. The real surprise on this album, is the cover of the B-52’s track “Roam”, which has been appropriately rocked up with guitars that would make Kate and Cindy’s beehive hairdos run for the hills! Anybody that read my review of Eric Ambel’s Knucklehead album will also know that I would have been very happy to see their version of “Down By The River” wind up on this record. Who knows, perhaps we might see it show up on that long talked about Yayhoos live album?
Speaking of Ambel, if I have a complaint about this album, it would be that there is not nearly enough Ambel on it. He turns in a couple of fine tracks vocally, particularly “Between You And Me”, and also the pleasantly retro “Hurtin’ Thing”. Eric Ambel has become a favorite, and hopefully we will get another solo record from him one of these days.
All in all, Put The Hammer Down does just that, and is a record that unbelievably manages to top Fear Not The Obvious, and then some. The album will be enjoyable to anyone that enjoys good rock and roll and comes with an invisible ticket that guarantees that you will get your ass kicked at a future Yayhoos show, very soon.
Order Put The Hammer Down from The Yayhoos official website.
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