Doc Wadkins and the Hard Pack are self ascribed "heavy metal Rock-N-Roll veterans." But when that genre went the way of an empty can of AquaNet, they turned to their roots and that meant the blues. Unable to fully shake their years of hard rock experience, the band plays the blues with a harder edge complete with screaming Fender guitars, prominent bass, heavy drums, and 3-4 part vocal harmonies. Influences range from BB King and The Alman Brothers to Jimi Hendrix, Gin Blossoms and Lynyrd Skynard, all coming together to create a unique musical blend that is friendly to both blues and non-blues fans.
The first thing that stuck out to me while listening to Down That Road, their first CD, is the top-notch musicianship. The rhythm section is tighter than pre-shrunk spandex, Doc's vocals are smooth and professional, and the guitar tones are absolutely killer. It's obvious from the first listen that these old friends have a good time playing together and such infectious merry-making makes the ten tracks all that much more fun.
The album opens with the dirty Texas-blues "Dead Man's Drive" with natty, gritty, guitar, piano by Larry De Vincent, and Doc on harp. "One Good Woman" is a more straight-forward blues song with classic lyrics and chord progression. There is a driving rock feel that propels the song forward through some stunning guitar solos, all rounded out by Hammond organ. Going further toward the Delta is "Love Doctor" which is Mississippi blues at it's most basic. Laid-back with plenty of slide guitar solos, this song will transport you to the deep South with no return ticket. A personal favorite is the rocking "Rock My World" with heavily distorted guitars and an early ZZTop feelů absolutely scorching! A number of ballads pepper the album, proof that this band knows how to work an audience. There's the title track which features rock organs, the mid-tempo power ballad "Going Crazy" and the driving "Open Up 'It's Cold Out Here'" with some nice vocal harmonies and a pace just right for a slow, close dance with that special someone. Rounding out the album is "Why Baby" with skillfully played honky-tonk piano and the soaring, lonely "Pale Moonlight" with ringing guitars, more great guitar solos, and an unexpected, upbeat instrumental outro.
The CD packaging is as professional as the music with a pressed CD and tasteful 8-page insert. You can get Down That Road by attending the CD release party at the Elks Lodge is Warsaw, 8 p.m. Saturday April 13 or by contacting Doc Wadkins himself at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, April 2002.