CD Reviews


Molly Hatchet Justice (SPV/Steam­hammer)

These days, Molly Hatchet of Jacksonville, Fla. are better known for their tradition of Frank Frazetta fantasy art on album covers than for delivering a brand of metallic Southern rock that found popularity in the late ’70s. That could change with Justice, the band’s first studio album in five years. Softer, introspective ballads are included, and they likely stem from the passing of Hatchet members Danny Joe Brown in 2005 and Duane Roland in 2006. Then again, the standout track—and reason for the album title—“Fly on Wings of Angels (Somer’s Song)” is dedicated to the memory of Somer Thompson, a little Jacksonville girl who was brutally murdered. The song contains as much gothic power and melancholy as any hipster-redneck band (i.e., Drive-By Truckers) can muster. Too bad patriotic boogie anthem “American Pride” will discourage listeners. To their credit, Hatchet clearly couldn’t care less. ★★★★☆


The Hold Steady Heaven Is Whenever (Vagrant)

For whatever reason, it’s inevitable for respected alt-rock bands to make a play for Bruce Springsteen’s audience. (Even the Killers felt obliged to try with their second album.) Sure, Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady have always worn their Boss influence better than most, with credit going to vocalist Craig Finn, who despite a nebbish appearance comes across like a burly, well-read welder. However, Finn’s desire to fashion a full-blown roots-rock masterpiece is so massive it’s distracting. For example, the guitar riff fueling “Rock Problems” is perfectly boneheaded, the irony nearly lost. Still, there’s no denying Finn’s literary finesse and musical knowledge, especially during the rough waltz of “We Can Get Together,” when he sings: “Utopia’s a band/they sang ‘Love Is the Answer’/I think they’re probably right.” The Boss couldn’t have referenced another (lesser) song better. ★★★☆☆


Robert Cray Authorized Bootleg: Austin, Texas 5/25/87 (Island)

Releasing an official live “bootleg” nearly 25 years after the recording seems pretty suspect. In the case of blues guitarist Robert Cray, however, this is more a chance to prove how nothing has really changed regarding his ability to create magic onstage in front of an audience. Anyone who’s attended a Cray concert in recent years knows the man makes his guitar smolder. What you might not realize is that, during his “peak” (in the year following his 1986 breakthrough album Strong Persuader and the crossover hit “Smoking Gun”), Cray was already a deft interpreter beyond his years. His searing take on Albert King’s “Let’s Have a Natural Ball” is spot-on, while his commanding version of “Don’t Touch Me” is as fluid as the blues gets. The Fender Stratocaster has rarely been played with such authority and passion. ★★★★☆ (Cray plays Red Rock Resort’s Rocks Lounge on May 22.)

Suggested Next Read

Summer Movie Preview


Summer Movie Preview

The summer movie season actually begins in spring, as Hollywood unveils its first big blockbuster, Iron Man 2, at midnight May 6 in Las Vegas (and everywhere else the next day). With a script written by Justin Theroux and packed with A-List stars such as Don Cheadle, Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson, there’s considerable reason to believe the sequel will top the upstart franchise’s first installment.