Devil's Canyon

Molly Hatchet

Mayhem Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


First things first: this is not your father's Molly Hatchet.

Following a seven-year layoff from the studio, Danny Joe Brown and crew were just about ready to take another shot at fame. Unfortunately, serious illness hit Brown (he had been a diabetic for years), effectively ending his stint with the band and leaving only keyboardist John Galvin as a link to the band's first stage. Brown personally selected Phil McCormack to handle the vocal duties, and his choice turned out to be ideal.

So anyone looking at Devil's Canyon to be a sequel to Flirtin' With Disaster is going to walk away sorely disappointed. However, if you accept the fact that Molly Hatchet was starting life anew, with an all-new lineup and an all-new sound, then you'll find that this album turns out to be quite enjoyable, albeit with a few missteps along the way.

The band's leaders now were undoubtedly McCormack (whose vocals do sound a lot like Brown's) and guitarist Bobby Ingram, who whips out some licks which never would have been dreamed of in the first incarnation of Molly Hatchet. The guitar solo on "Tatanka" almost sounds like it could have been lifted from a heavy metal band's repertoire, which is both surprising and welcome. For those who do need the link to the past, Galvin is given plenty of room to shine as well, and he uses his time in the limelight to his advantage.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The opening track "Down From The Mountain" does conjure up the band's original sound, though I honestly don't remember slide guitar being part of Molly Hatchet's guitar trio back then. Overall, this is a powerful track, and one which should have been given a lot more attention than it actually received - in fact, there are a few numbers on this disc which could have been hits on rock radio had playlists been set by people, not corporations. (Not that I'm passionate on the subject.) Likewise, "Rolling Thunder" and the title track are real barn-burners which let the listener know that the second generation of Molly Hatchet is here, and is here for the long run.

Interestingly enough, the best track on Devil's Canyon turns out to be an acoustic version of "Dreams I'll Never See," the old Allman Brothers Band number which graced Molly Hatchet's self-titled debut back in 1978. Linking the past to the present was risky, but the band stays true to their original version and makes this one a lot of fun to listen to. It also makes me wonder what an all-acoustic album from Molly Hatchet would be like.

Yet there are some growing pains evident on Devil's Canyon - though none which the band couldn't overcome given time. Tracks like "Tatanka" and "The Journey" are ones which need to grow on you, while others like "Heartless Land" and "Eat Your Heart Out" suggest that they could have used a little more work, falling a little flat. And who would have imagined that Molly Hatchet would do a love song with "The Look In Your Eyes"?

Devil's Canyon did re-establish Molly Hatchet as a name to be reckoned with after an extended absence, but while there is plenty to cheer about with this one, it also showed that the band was still re-discovering just where they belonged in a musical atmosphere which was quite different than the first time they had to deal with this in 1978. Still, this one is worth searching out.

Rating: B-

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© 2004 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 Mayhem Records, and is used for informational purposes only.