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Better Than This – 1999 (Checkered Past)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Hadacol

Back in the 1940's, Hank Williams' radio show was sponsored by a medicinal product called Hadacol, a wicked brew that purported to cure nearly every known ailment except for alcoholism, since Hadacol was mostly alcohol. It is a countryesque irony that the elixir that helped fuel Williams' success contained the ingredient that killed him.

That irony isn't lost on the Fred and Greg Wickham, who named their alt.-country/loose rock quartet after Hank's intoxicating cure and frequently sound as though they've been judiciously swilling the stuff. While they were at it, they took a crack at creating the sound of Steve Earle fronting The Replacements while listening to his Neil Young collection. When Hadacol's Bottle Rockets/Earle/Westerberg qualities surface, they are unstoppable, especially on the rave-up "Big Tornado" and the snarling break-up ode "What You Wanted." On "Somebody Lied," the Wickhams do a fair impression of alt.-country brothers Chip and Tony Kinman, as Hadacol steams into Rank and File mode. On "Poorer Than Dead," all of their influences are brought to bear on a song that John Prine would be proud to call his own, and "Rebel Boys" is so purely Earle, he should cover it.

Hadacol has the right rock/country stuff. Their execution is accomplished enough to impress, slack enough to give it edge and attitude. They are among the best that the genre has to offer. A powerful debut.