Music has a strange and powerful energy. Good songs and bands and the fans who listen to them never go away. They might seem to disappear for a year or five or 10 or 20, but they’ll never bow out. Enter Gator Country …
Gator Country was formed in 2005 after it was suggested that some original Molly Hatchet members put the band back together. Although Molly Hatchet was, and still is, performing under the name, the current group counts only one original member, guitarist Dave Hlubek, in its lineup. Several key pieces of the puzzle were missing. So, former Hatchet members – guitarist Steve Holland, vocalist Jimmy Farrar, drummer Bruce Crump and bassist Riff West – came back together a few years after performing at a 1999 tribute for Danny Joe Brown , Hatchet’s original singer who was suffering complications from diabetes, and finally lost the battle March 10, 2005.
To flesh out the guitar department, they brought original Hatchet member Duane Roland back into the mix along with guitarist Linni Disse, and after some jamming, it was apparent that the musical chemistry here and the band’s back catalog were too strong to ignore. Although this band was in many ways more "Molly Hatchet" than Molly Hatchet, the members couldn’t use the name. Taking their cue from one of Hatchet’s most popular songs, they decided to call themselves Gator Country and play the music that they helped create. In a tragic turn, Roland died June 19, 2006, from natural causes. The band members soldiered on, bringing in long-time friend and ex-UFO guitarist Paul Chapman, who stepped in the following month and has remained a member.
It’s this lineup of Holland, Crump, Farrar, West, Chapman and Disse that’s featured on the band’s first full release, Gator Country Live , recorded in Eastlake, Ohio, Sept. 1, 2007, before an enthusiastic crowd. The sound is good, the band is tight and the set couldn’t be better, from "Bounty Hunter" and "Gator Country" to "Beatin’ The Odds" and, of course, "Flirtin’ With Disaster." Many of the songs were originally sung by Danny Joe Brown, whose gritty, street-tough vocals gave them a sound all their own, but Farrar has a voice that’s equally powerful and does a fine job putting his stamp on every tune. And he has a genuine respect for the Hatchet history and its members, as he gives a touching tribute to Brown and Roland, before kicking into a powerful performance of "Dreams I’ll Never See," an Allman Brothers’ chestnut that Hatchet covered on their self-titled 1978 debut. Holland took the original riff – a dreamy, waltz-like groove – and sped it up into a 4/4 rock riff. The song became something of a signature tune for the band, something that Farrar acknowledges on this recording, and an opportunity for the three guitarists to strut their six-string stuff. They also throw in a smokin’ cover of "Long Tall Sally" and close the show with the anthemic "Boogie No More." It’s an excellent set of Southern Rock that’s sure to get your foot stompin’.
The disc concludes with a cover of Bad Company’s "Oh Atlanta," which features the band’s last studio recording with Roland. It’s a poignant ending for a group of musicians and friends who’ve seen their share of tragedy, but know that the music and the memories of those who’ve departed too early never really die.