Molly Hatchet

Molly Hatchet

Epic Records, 1978

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Ever since the ball in Times Square dropped to welcome in 1998, I've been wandering the halls of the Pierce Archive (don't swing from the chandelier, you'll find my Monkees records up there) trying to figure out what my first review of the new year should be. Leave it to a two-month old suggestion from loyal reader Trent Nakagawa (sorry if I misspelled your name). You see, Trent was wondering why we had never reviewed anything from Southern boogie band Molly Hatchet.

Once the alcohol cleared from my head (okay, so it took a while -- we throw wild parties in the Pierce Archives), I went and dug out my copy of Molly Hatchet's 1978 debut release and listened to it, believe it or not, for the first time.

So, Trent, this one's for you...

Although the album's liner notes claim this band is more than a Southern rock band, you can't help but hear the Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers Band influences in the work of Danny Joe Brown and crew - they even have the three-lead-guitar attack down even better than Skynyrd did (Duane Roland, Dave Hlubek and Steve Holland share the duties). But don't call them a Skynyrd clone; had Ronnie Van Zant not died in a plane crash in 1977, he would have produced this album. Instead, the task fell to Tom Werman, and he does a wonderfully fresh job.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Having cut their teeth for three years in the bar circuit, lead singer Brown and company were more than ready when they finally hit the studio. You can hear it in the tightness of the band on "Gator Country," where the triple-axe attack is sharper than the axe the rather threatening gentleman on the cover is holding. The Allmans influence is also heard in the solid rhythm laid down by bassist Banner Thomas and drummer Bruce Crump; if you're not listening carefully, you may think this track is a cousin to "Ramblin' Man", only without the slide guitar.

The Gregg Allman-penned track "Dreams I'll Never See" is the one that seals Molly Hatchet for me; Brown and crew take the track and make it their own almost effortlessly, and is one I kept finding myself drawn to. "Bounty Hunter" takes 12-bar blues and adds quite a bit of bite to it - makes it quite tasty, to tell you the truth.

But there are one or two times where Molly Hatchet stumbles. "The Creeper" is another 12-bar adaptation, sounding like a leftover from Lynyrd Skynyrd's Nuthin' Fancy album - unlike its cousins, this track just doesn't live up to the high level of quality song that can be found on most of the rest of the album. And as much as "Gator Country" grows on you, I think I could have done without the litany to their musical mentors. (I will admit, though, that they were years ahead of re-recognizing Elvin Bishop than the rest of us.)

I think what makes Molly Hatchet unique is that, coming off the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash, they don't steal the thunder of any of their predecessors (or, for that matter, their licks). The guitar battery of Roland, Hlubek and Holland is tighter than any of the incarnations that Lynyrd Skynyrd featured, and is a tad rockier. Instead, they take the lessons learned from their fellow Southerners and enhance them to their own needs. Werman, a crack producer, also knew how to bring out the best in their sound.

So why weren't these guys a household name? To me, the cover throws it off a bit. I vaguely remember seeing a video for Molly Hatchet's "Satisfied Man" on MTV in its early days, and they sounded like a hard rock band. I don't think people knew what to make of the executioner on a black horse -- Judas Priest and leather were just hitting our shores -- so it scared some off. Too bad -- they don't know what they were missing.

Molly Hatchet is a great album that takes the best of both Southern boogie and all-out rock and combines them into one neat package. If you like bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, you may find you'll like Molly Hatchet even more. (And Trent, I am sending out that mailing to you this weekend.)

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.