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Dan Baird’s Homemade Sin

There is that left leg, pumping like electroshock set to quick-strike metronome. It's attached the black-headed, pork-pie hat wearing yowler who hurls himself at the mic without ever losing solid contact with the floor beneath his sneakers. This guy is a true believer, and he ain't afraid to let it rock.

This man is Dan Baird, who's brought his new band Homemade Sin with Jason & the Scorchers guitarist Warner Hodges, to Nashville after extended European tours to let it fly, and see how it lands back home. It is an act of faith and an act of combustion, pure and simple. Hardcore three chord rock and roll with a steam engine back beat and Baird's drawlin' howl that's all the yowl of a mountain cat with its balls caught in barbed wire.

No fuss, no muss. Just four grown men on a clean stage, walking out, plugging in and hitting the downstroke. Quick buzz, blur and straight into the Georgia Satellite's "I Dunno" with as much charge-load as anything the Replacements or the Ramones ever served up, lyrics flying, guitars whirling and a sense of thrilling release about finally getting it all out.

It's a funny thing about the Satellites: for the people who got it, they were the real deal, throttle and exhilaration that touched on the great ones: Stones, Faces, Who, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly without ever dropping a plectrum. To the drive-by observers, they were one merely one more band punching it out in the bars, surfing a very lucky Warhol 15 by virtue of a novelty song that worked the oldest axiom mothers had plied on their daughters coming into puberty since the 50s.

Ironically, for Baird – who sets it up with "I don't know… maybe you don't wanna hear the huggy-kissie song" — "Keep Your Hands To Yourself" has become its own blaring insurrection manifesto. Sure, it's been played in bars, on concert stages and frat houses every night for the past two decades, but in Homemade Sins' hands, the down-on-the-groove classic is almost a salacious confrontation. It's the rage against the assumptions, the dismissals and, of course, the unthinking denial of hormonal meltdown.

Not that it was all full-rut blaring. When Baird slowed things down for the gut-ripping "All Over But The Crying," it was the attenuated moment of reckoning for a faithless girl who thinks she's smarter than the guy – only to realize, he's letting her play her game, because he's done. By dropping the pilot light to a slow quiet flex, single notes hitting the stage like stakes going through the floor, the intensity draws the room to a hush.

That kind of a witness at a rock show is staggering. In some cases more staggering even than the ability to take late middle aged women who're well into their fade and return them to their former 20-something hottie glory, shaking their asses as if anyone still cared – or the paunchy guy well past his rock 'n' roll prime pawing his dates crotch right out in the open.

But that's the alchemy: dissolving time and propriety, releasing the inner beast in the people. And that's Homemade Sin. Down on the dance floor, the normally reserved flung themselves at the stage, roiling and boiling like it was the second to last night of Spring Break and they couldn't believe life was so good.

And it's not that life is so good. It's that Baird, Hodges, veteran bass player Keith Christopher and Satellites drummer Mauro Magellan haven't forgotten. Indeed, they recognize the power of Hodges' whipping Creedence's "Fortunate Son" into a frenzy, of the dumb kid ardor of Baird's solo semi-hit "I Love You, Period," of the jettison punch of why even bother with what went wrong "6 Years Gone" and the surging bolt of "Railroad Steel."

Feel it. Put it all down. Spin it out with a couple Telecasters and a beat that'll topple the constraints that bind you. Do it with dignity. Do it tight. Do it hard. It's not about showing off – though Hodges can toss a guitar over his shoulder at rapid speed – but getting it done. Period.

Perhaps for the true believers, there is a moment where the doubt rolls back, and the fact that all there is is a tweed amp and some reverb that'll save you, is the reason a band like Homemade Sin doesn't just matter: they're critical.

Certainly "Younger Face" offers a heightened interpretation, but it's not about what was – staggering though that might be; no, it's about what is: the fact that new songs like "Leave Well Enough Alone" and "2 For Tuesday" bristles with the same static electricity that made the Satellites gap-toothed lightning that the Satellites struck with all those years ago.

In a world where it's about marketing, demographics and what will the radio play, the argument could be made, this doesn't fit. But to a churning catharsis of too many people wondering "Where did all the music that hit hard with melodic thrust go?", in Nashville's legendary Exit/In, they're essential.

Because in the end, there is no substitute. You can talk all you want, but you either rock or you don't. Without bands like this, though, it won't be long before people won't have any measure to judge the difference. That is perhaps even more important than a jam-packed 90 minutes that quoted from T. Rex ("Bang A Gong") and the Beach Boys ("Do You Wanna Dance?") on its way to a wind-up, wind-out of the revving "Railroad Steel" into the bawdy drawling tale of white trash heart throb "Dixie Beauderaunt."

In times like these, it is bold men who lean into the reverb, throw caution to the wind and let it rock. Homemade Sin has that boldness in their veins and sustain, and they came to let it rock.

Whew, thank God somebody remembers how.

--Holly Gleason
February 8, 2008

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