One of the most emotional all-star jams in recent history took place at Orlando, Florida's Club LaVela on July 18, 1999. A benefit to help offset the vast medical expenses of original Molly Hatchet lead singer Danny Joe Brown, the event , spearheaded by Hatchet/Foghat bassist Riff West, was a huge success, and now, almost a year and a half later, we have been treated to both a CD and a video to commemorate the event.
While the CD featured the entire set by The Dixie Jam Band (read: "Molly Hatchet," since it included virtually all of the original and "second string" Hatchet players) the video includes performances by The Southern Rock Allstars, Artimus Pyle, Charlie Hargrett, Pat Travers and more.
Marcus Machado pulls out all the stops with some fiery guitar work reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix, and then The Southern Rock Allstars take the stage. Jay Johnson sings his butt off, and Jakson Spires pounds the drums with as much fever as he displayed in the old Blackfoot days. Dave Hlubek is in fine form too, and the music just sounds great. The guys bring Charlie Hargrett out to sit in, and together they rock through "Wishing Well." The quality of the video and audio is top notch, and every moment of viewing is a joy.
The Dixie Jam Band rips up the stage from start to finish, playing like there's no tomorrow, with twin bass players in Riff West and Banner Thomas; guitarists Steve Holand and Dave Hlubek, joined by SRA's Jay Johnson; Bruce Crump on the drums; and Jimmy Farrar singing. Together, the original members of Molly Hatchet (aka: Dixie Jam Band) blaze through Hatchet favorites and covers like "Bloody Reunion," "Bounty Hunter," Gator Country," and "Dreams," which is interspersed with some awesome clips of Danny Joe and the band throughout their history, in rehearsal, performance and music video. Danny' son Jake comes in to sing the last verse, and there isn't a dry eye in the house. Next up is Farrar singing "Mississippi Queen." Never has there been a better rendition of this Mountain classic! Wow! Jimmy kicks it in the ass and dares it to back talk! And right on the tail of that sonic bombast comes Jimmy's biggest MH hit, "Beatin the Odds." Awesome.
The band is introduced, and then the evenings biggest surprise, Danny Joe Brown is lead out onstage to sing "Flirtin with Disaster" one more time. Now, if you only have the CD of this show, you only have half of the thrill. If this scene doesn't rip at your heart and bring tears to the eyes, something is wrong. The audience sing along, and Danny's broad smile, is just a joy.
Artimus Pyle leaves the drums to sing lead, backed by Jakson Spires, Charlie Hargrett, Tim Lindsay, Dave Hlubek, Marcus Machado on "Sweet Home Alabama." Fantastic camera angles and video emitting make this show even hotter. One great scene finds Artimus on the drum riser, facing Jakson and playing the cymbals with his sticks while Jak beats hell out of the from kit. Another cool scene is in "Sweet Home," when Arti sings "In Muscle Shoals they've got the Swampers" and Jay Johnson (for anyone who doesn't know, Jay's dad, Jimmy is one of the original Swampers) leans over and bites Artimus on the arm lightly. Pretty funny.
Pat Travers takes the stage, backed by an all-star ensemble that includes Charlie Hargrett and Jimmy Farrar, to boom-boom through "Crossroads" and "LaGrange." Travers just plain smokes on the Les Paul.
Dave Hlubek, looking and sounding like an NWO wrestler (he was very hoarse that night, like most of the wrestlers!) addressed the audience from the heart about how happy he was to be involved and playing with his old friends again.
At the end of the show, Artimus Pyle leads an acapella sing-along of "Freebird," with the stage filling with all of the performers, and Danny Joe comes up to sing a verse with Artimus.
All in all, Jammin for DJB, the video, stands as one of the most lasting tributes to the world of Southern Rock music, and especially Danny Jo Brown's Molly Hatchet. An inspired performance, an emotional evening, and a welcome addition to anyone's video library.
-Michael Buffalo Smith