Molly Hatchet – “Battleground” 2CD / 3LP (Steamhammer / SPV)
Battle Helm Rating
‘…I like my wimmin Southern style – hell yeah!!…’. Molly Hatchet. Now there’s a name. If you were into Southern Rock back in the late 70s and early 80s then albums like “Flirtin’ With Disaster” and “Beatin’ The Odds” with their unmistakable Frank Frazetta covers will no doubt bring back memories of the glory days for the stars n bars. Natural successors to Lynyrd Skynyrd, with Ronnie Van Zant slated to produce their debut, Molly Hatchet even cut their demos at Skynyrd’s recording studio. Different to other more country influenced groups like The Outlaws, the winning combination of boogie, blues and hard rock as well as an overt Southern image made the band a force to be reckoned with until the mid 80s, when Southern Rock became unfashionable, although they retained a cult following despite a revolving door line up over the decades. Brought in initially to replace founder guitarist Dave Hlubek in 1987, Bobby Ingram has ultimately grown to become the only consistent member in the line up over the years, acquiring the name to the band in 2000 and pretty much becoming its leader especially following the passing of Hlubek in 2017, who himself survived the band’s entire early line up bar guitarist Steve Holland. I have to say that Ingram has done a remarkable job of not just keeping the band going with the right musicians, but staying true to its legacy which is amply evidenced on this 19 track double live album recorded in Switzerland, Germany, and during the band’s 40th anniversary tour of the United States. Taking from right across the band’s discography, “Battleground” has it all in bunches from style to sass – all naturally Southern – and the musicianship is incredible. Once famed for their 3 guitar attack, Ingram and longtime keyboardist John Galvin do a remarkable job to ensure the sound is still thick, while the new good ‘ol boy in Jimmy Elkins is nothing short of a star – sounding like a deadly cross between Danny Joe Brown and Jimmy Farrar! Together they make a formidable force in bringing back to life classics like ‘Whiskey Man’, here with a rich gravy of boogie licks and kick ass piano work from Galvin (man, that boy is good!) turning the song into a ball! On ‘Son Of The South’ (taken from 2005’s “Warriors Of The Rainbow Bridge”), Elkins’s rough n ready vocals let it all hang out as the lyrics lay testament to Southern pride in every sense driven by some mean n dirty guitar from Ingram – y’all ready? Taking it back to ’83 on ‘Fall Of The Peacemakers’ (from “No Guts…No Glory”) the song still is just as moving as when I first heard it, with Galvin’s piano and Ingram’s guitar adding so much moving soul to this truly heart stirring number while the Southern tradition of the extended guitar solo is maintained on ‘Justice’ with bunches of diablo riffs, cowpoke slide and saloon piano taking this 8 minute epic like a gallopin’ ride out into the west. Fer me, it’s always been ‘Beatin’ The Odds’ and as the sassy riffs tease irresistibly, Elkins’s Southern drawl rams it home one more time to the roar of the crowd. 40 years on, its both an honour and joy to know that Molly Hatchet are still going – and in fine style too!