Dan Baird and the Sofa Kings
Dan Baird exists in a strange musical limbo. Known primarily as the leader of the late, great Georgia Satellites, and more pointedly, as the writer of the “huggie-kissie” song, Baird is one of the few “roots rockers” who have never stepped far from their main influence (Chuck Berry) and actually made money at it. He’s also one of the most respected songwriters to those in the know. But to the world at large, he’s the gapped-toothed goober in the “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” video. Well, redneck as he might be, he’s a damn smart one. Hence the title of his first live record, Redneck Savant. Recorded in Berne, Switzerland in August of 2000, Dan and the Sofa Kings (Ken McMahan, Kyle Miller, and Nick Forchione) generally raise large amounts of well-played hell, and the record captures it in all its speeding-train glory.
Baird is a master at creating short stories played against the eternal I-IV-V chord progression, and his characters are as real as Raymond Carver’s or any other snooty New Yorker writer you’d like to name. Take “Dixie Beauxderaunt,” the femme fatale who “stayed in school just long enough to say that she quit” or the hapless “Jake” from “Woke Up Jake,” who just might have pushed his luck a little too far, a little too often. These are real people, living real (if desperate) lives. Dan knows ‘em, loves ‘em, and captures them with a deft touch.
One highlight of Georgia Satellites shows were the covers, and Dan continues the tradition here, ranging from ABBA (“Dancing Queen”) to a grisly version of AC/DC’s “Sin City.” Ken McMahan takes the mic for Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman Blues,” and sounds like he’s fronting Status Quo. While the band is not the well-honed machine that the Satellites were, they do it right enough. This record might be a touch difficult to find, but the effort is surely worth it, if only for a near speed-metal version of the greatest divorce song ever written, “Dan Takes 5” – “I took the things that I need/ I got the car, my pride and three pairs of jeans” – as well as fresh takes on other Sat’s classics such as “Shelia,” “I Dunno,” and that damn huggie-kissie song. Well, ya know, even savants have power bills to pay – and the energy expended by Dan and his pals is certainly immense.