There’s a ton of live albums out there, yet when the best rock ‘n’ roll band in the world releases a new live record, it’s time to pay attention. This live album is a little bit special, and without going into the whole story, here’s the reason why. This live album is pulled from Dan Baird & Homemade Sin’s show at Bootleggers Bar, Kendal, a town in Cumbria, England (for the benefit of those who have never set foot in ol’ Blighty). Homemade Sin (HMS) were in the midst of a UK/Euro Tour when Dan Baird got sick. Bad sick. So much so, that within 24 hours of this gig on 26 July 2017, Dan was in hospital being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).
For anyone who has ever seen Dan Baird & Homemade Sin live, you know that they are the real deal. Ain’t no better live band anywhere. They deliver the goods EVERY show. In fact, you could release any of their gigs as a live CD – and it would come up trumps – so if you put on hold for a second the reason for the release of this CD – this gig in Auld Grey Town is as good as any. It’s a double CD with nice packaging, liner notes and live photos. CD 1 has 17 tracks, the first 12 of which comprise the first set. There are many highlights. Opening with the one-two punch of ‘Younger Face’ and ‘Little Darlin’, there’s no respite as HMS launch into ‘Knocked Out Cold’, ‘Licka Sense’ and ‘Shake It Till It’s Sore’, three killer tunes pulled from my 2017 album of the year, ‘Rollercoaster’. (Read my review for that album here). Warner Hodges’ wailing guitar on ‘Knocked Out Cold’ is pretty damn palatable.
With exhaustion setting in, ‘Thousand Little Pieces’ gives Dan Baird the opportunity to catch his breath. Dan was no doubt feeling the effects of CMM, but you wouldn’t know it from this performance. He gives no excuses, no quarter given – just sings his heart out – and gives 100% as he always has. Faced with the same situation, I’ve known other musicians who would have either cancelled, cut the set short, or provided an excuse. Not DB, one of a kind – and speaks volumes about the man’s convictions. Total respect. The band know how much Dan was struggling, so they all pick up their performances and give a little extra, with Warner Hodges in particular shouldering a lot more of the vocals. Dan hits the A chord and insists the crowd sing-along and help him out with ‘Keep Your Hands To Yourself’. They dutifully oblige. There’s a tribute by Warner Hodges to Jonty Martindale, a pillar of the Kendal live music scene and owner of Bootleggers who passed away suddenly in April this year. ‘Movin Right Along’, another couldabeen/shouldabeen hit from the ‘Get Loud’ album rocks aplenty, before the band take it up a gear to finish the set on a high with two bonafide Dan Baird classics, ‘Julie and Lucky’ and ‘I Love You Period’.
If you are new to the world of Dan Baird & Homemade Sin, ‘The Red Wristband Special’ CD is as good an introduction to the man and his music as any album in his back catalogue. Long-time DB fans however, will appreciate the five bonus tracks on CD 1. ‘Way Too Soon’ an outtake from the aforementioned ‘Rollercoaster’ album is a great tune with a smokin’ riff. Co-penned by Brad Pemberton. As well as being a monster drummer (currently with Steve Earle), he is no slouch in the song writing department either. ‘You Been On My Mind’, a previously unreleased Dan Baird demo also gets the thumbs up. Melodic, catchy, singalong chorus and memorable lyrics. Also included is ‘I’m Never Alone’, a brand new tune from Warner Hodges which will be included on his soon to be released solo album. Man this good. Cross Petty with Cheap Trick and you are on the money. Can’t wait for the album!
Whilst Dan Baird is in respite and being treated for CLL, Homemade Sin are touring throughout the US and Europe with the great Joe Blanton out front and filling in for Dan. Blanton plays in a Nashville band called The Bluefields (also with Baird, Hodges and the aforementioned Pemberton) and is one of my favourite frontmen/songwriters. Some of the material he penned with the Bluefields (for example ‘Trainwreck’ and ‘If Not Now When’) are unknown classics that should be scoring airplay the world over. This cat has a penchant for melody, and the inclusion of one of his previously unreleased tunes, ‘That Was Now This Is Then’ hits another bullseye. Total Chuck Berry/Stones/Quo/Fogerty. Smoking tune. How about a solo album Joe ? CD 1 is rounded out by ‘Falling’, a plaintive Mauro Magellan tune off his ‘4 Corners of Sweet Hell’ CD with much appeal.
CD 2 consists of the second set of the night, and opens with another classic from Rollercoaster, ‘The Other Side’, before the audience are treated to a couple of Satellites classics, ‘I Dunno’ (with Warner singing his absolute heart out) and ‘Six Years Gone’. I’ve written elsewhere about the greatness of ‘Crooked Smile’ a tune off the first Homemade Sin album. Live, it is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and rightly so. This song is huge, and evokes images of Neil Young jamming with Crazy Horse in the early 70s – and then some. The song belongs to Hodges – and is quite possibly the best 10 minutes of rock n roll that you are ever likely to see. In this brief period he finesses, shreds, bends, motors, taps and still finds time to throw his Les Paul over his shoulder, as he has been doing since the early Scorchers days. If you want to know why Hodges is so good – go watch this on YouTube. The rapturous response from the crowd at Bootleggers tells me what I already knew – they got to see something just that little bit special. Why don’t more people know this song ? Go listen. It’s beyond superlatives. The ultimate tribute/commentary to Carny folk, ‘Fairground People’ gets another green tick, and then, the audience are treated to ‘Hell And Back’, a bitchin’ hard rocker from Warner Hodges’ 2014 solo album, ‘Gunslinger’.
‘Thin Disguise’, one of my all-time favourite Baird songs, and another of the couldabeen/shouldabeen hits from ‘Get Loud’ (see above) sounds hot, before a punishing version of ‘Railroad Steel’ ends proceedings. What a killer set. The between song banter is also left in, and I’m glad about that, as it makes the listener feel that they were there. ‘The Red Wrist Band Special’ is a live statement from the best band in the world. Its warts and all. Its dog eared, its imperfect – but it hits you in the heart and soul like no other rock n roll can. There’s a realness, a legitimacy, and notably, a humility to Dan Baird & Homemade Sin that today’s artists clearly lack. You could have an army of Ed Sheerans and I’ll take one Dan Baird any day of the week. The CD scores 10 out of 10.
Having grown up in the halcyon period of Oz hard rock – when bands like AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, The Angels, (Angel City), Divinyls, Cold Chisel etc reigned supreme, I will probably never be swayed from my opinion that Australia produced the best live rock n roll bands in the world. After all these years, I can honestly say, hand on heart, that guys like Dan Baird, Warner Hodges and Homemade Sin are also in that illustrious group. For they are quite simply – the best of the best.
The Red Wrist Band Special CD is available now from JCPL Music.
Click here to read a review of Dan Baird And Homemade Sin live in Australia from 22 April, 2017.
Click here to listen to an interview Cowboy Col conducted with Dan Baird at Newcastle, Australia on The Australian Rock Show.