With the passing of two legends in Jakson Spires (BLACKFOOT) and Danny Joe Brown (MOLLY HATCHET), it's been a tough year for southern rock. It is people like Bobby Ingram who have helped keep the spirit of southern rock alive. Ingram sure as hell has kept MOLLY HATCHET alive and doing quite well overseas, not an easy chore considering that until recently the band included no original members (guitarist Dave Hlubek has returned). Ingram busted ass to ensure that the MOLLY HATCHET machine rolled on and continued to do so after the sudden death of his wife, Stephanie. The title of the new HATCHET release, "Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge", and the song "Rainbow Bridge" pay tribute to Melanie, the bridge referring to the link between heaven and earth.
Any assessment of the worth of a new MOLLY HATCHET album should come with a realization that the magic of the self-titled debut and "Flirtin' with Disaster" will never be repeated. Those days are long gone. "Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge" is 58 minutes of southern rock swagger and down home boogie, regardless of the absence of godly guitar tunes like "Gator Country" or "Bounty Hunter". These days the sound includes a generous helping of female backing vocals and honky tonk piano. And it doesn't hurt to have a singer in Phil McCormack who is as close to the voice of Danny Joe Brown as you'll find. "Son of the South", "I'm Ready for You", "Roadhouse Boogie", and "Get in the Game" are strong hard rock tunes with heartfelt guitar work and a spirited delivery. "Moonlight Dancing on the Bayou" is one of the better tracks, featuring a rough-and-tumble vibe and old-school HATCHET chorus (Ingram's description of it as a "swampy-type rock 'n' roll boogie song" is dead-on). Acoustic guitar and piano work together to add a touch of class to the infectious "Flames are Burning". The R&B-inflected rockers ("Time Keeps Slipping Away", "Hell has no Fury") are predictable, but still sound a hell of a lot better than the drivel that characterized .38 SPECIAL's "Drivetrain". The album closes with the touching "Rainbow Bridge", a classic southern rock tempo builder that leads to a full-on jam.
The lyrics can be silly at times and the over-produced drumming is straight out of the Phil Rudd (AC/DC) school. Fortunately, neither issue does anything to dampen the fun and spirit of the disc. Southern or not, this is a beer-drinkin' rock 'n' roll album. It's not exactly cutting edge, but it's still heartening to see an album like "Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge" released in 2005.