If you're at all familiar with (here it comes) roots rock, you know the names quite well. Lead singer-guitarist Dan Baird was the voice behind '80s hitmakers The Georgia Satellites, Eric "Roscoe" Ambel (guitars and vocals) was a founding member of New York's Del Lords and bassist Keith Christopher has laid it down for the aforementioned Satellites (originally known as Keith and the Satellites), The Brains, Shaver and Paul Westerberg. Rounding out the group is drummer-vocalist Terry Anderson, a genuine N.C. icon, who's recorded with The Backsliders, the legendary Fabulous Knobs and The Woods (an earlier version of the band, the Woodpeckers, included Baird). Roots? These guys got 'em in spades.
Strangely enough, the event which lead to The Yayhoos formation came during a period when its future members were deeply immersed in solo careers.
"When Dan's second solo record came out (1996's Buffalo Nickle on American), I had one out (Loud And Lonesome, ESD), and so did Terry (You Don't Like Me, also on ESD)," says Ambel from a tour stop in Kentucky. "American [Records] pulled the promotional plug on Dan's record due to some snit that the bearded CEO had going on, so we all decided to go out and play each other's songs as a band." The Yayhoos were born.
The band is currently on the road in support of its debut Bloodshot release, Fear Not The Obvious, a rollicking party of an album that recalls the best moments of The Faces, mid-period Stones and Pleased To Meet Me-era Replacements.
Besides serving as a textbook example of all that can be right about rock 'n' roll (the lead off track, Anderson and Ambel's "What Are We Waiting For," is about as good as it gets), this might be one of the funniest records you'll hear all year. "Monkey With A Gun," Ambel's meditation on Hank Williams Jr. ("He fell off of that mountain, and he never was the same/Somewhere in Colorado, sits a chunk of Jr.'s brain") and Baird's wishful "Oh! Chicago" ("Oh! Chicago, you must be kind to a redneck girl with high-class dreams") would not be out of place on a Southern-fried, albeit subtler, Tenacious D album. "Beer Run," a Yayhoos live crowd-pleaser co-written by Christopher, is strangely absent, possibly due to the fact that it was recently recorded by the somewhat better-known duet of George Jones and Garth Brooks.
"Our idea was for everybody to bring in some half-started song ideas that we could finish together," says Ambel, who also served as the record's producer. "What we did was set up and jam on a track; afterward we would record it and go outside with legal pads and work on the lyrics. When the lyrics were done we would usually re-record the track ... and that's the record." Recording Fear Not was an equally low-key affair. It was all laid down at Anderson's father's barn in Louisburg, N.C., using just six microphones and eight tracks.
Having four songwriters in one band (each Yayhoo takes a lead vocal at least once on the record) is new territory for Ambel, who before hooking up with The Del Lords was an original member of Joan Jett's Blackhearts (he "got bounced" after recording her breakthrough I Love Rock And Roll album). "The Blackhearts were Joan's backing band and The Del Lords was a band with one songwriter," he explains. "The Yayhoos seems closer to the ideal band that you dream about as a kid."
But getting this "ideal" band on the road can be quite an undertaking. "It's probably the most daunting thing about The Yayhoos," says Ambel. "Everybody's busy, but these are the kind of problems you look forward to." Busy is an understatement: Christopher's day job is playing with blues wunderkind Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Baird has been touring Europe and producing, and Anderson has made a name for himself as a Grade-A songwriter. Ambel, besides being a sought-after producer, just finished a 15-month stint as the lead guitarist for Steve Earle. ("They called me looking for another guitarist's number," says Ambel. "I realized that I shouldn't provide the number--I should provide myself instead.")
Schedules finally hammered out, The Yayhoos went ahead and scheduled their triumphant record-release party for Sept. 15 at Brownies in New York City, the town that would also serve as the band's tour base. "I thought we had a pretty good plan together," says Ambel. "Didn't count on an international terrorist action."
As a New Yorker, Ambel had a ringside view of the Sept. 11 tragedies. "It was sickening," he says. "I heard the first plane hit from my apartment in the East Village, saw the second one live on TV, and watched the twin towers tumble from my rooftop."
The Yayhoos did play Brownies that Saturday. But instead of celebrating their record release, the band did what they could to raise money for the families of Engine Co. 28, an East Village fire station that lost nine of its members in rescue operations following the attacks.
"The money was only a piece of the good that came out of the gig," says Ambel. "A lot of people came out that hadn't been out of their homes for days. It was good to have some fun.
"It was a healing thing."
Checking in with Terry Anderson
The Independent was able to track down ace songwriter-Yayhoos drummer Terry Anderson and get an update on the N.C. rocker's latest projects. Anderson has a new disc, I'll Drink to That, recorded at his home 16-track studio in studio in Bunn, N.C. He's also working on a solo album titled Pure T--"It's a Southern slang thing--it means 'Pure Terry,'" he explains.
The former member of such classic Carolina combos as The Fabulous Knobs, The Woods and more is also readying an outtakes record to sell on the Web, All My Worst for You and Yours. "It's got some pretty shitty songs, and I'm pretty excited to get 'em out," he deadpans.
For Thursday's Brewery show, Anderson says the boys will be pullin' out all the stops. If you get there early, you can witness he and Dan Baird's "Creek Dancin." (It's pronounced "crick," of course.)
"You know Riverdance?" he asks. "Well, this is me and Dan [kickin' up our heels] with Keith [Christopher] on bass." He assures me that they are, indeed, Lords of the Creek Dance.
"We take it easy during the day, but when the night comes it's 150 percent hell on wheels."