June 12, 2008
By David Huff
Trace Adkins - Country Fever 2008 - Jun. 12-15
There are three things America learned about country music’s Alpha male, Trace Adkins, when he starred on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice earlier this year. First off, this Louisiana native does NOT like to be kissed by men, especially if they’re Brits. Second, underneath his cowboy hat, cloaked in a steely, silent demeanor lays an undeniably brilliant man who embodies the spirit of a true Southern gentleman down to its core. And last, but not least, this man absolutely loves his family.
Trace Adkins is indeed a towering presence in an era of larger-than-life personalities. His performance on NBC’s hit television show, The Celebrity Apprentice, proved that. The 6’6” Adkins participated in the show to help bring about public awareness to the dangers of food allergies. His daughter, Brianna, suffers from severe food allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. She is one of 12 million Americans that have to carefully watch what they eat every single day of their life.
When Adkins broke onto the music scene in 1996 with Dreamin’ Out Loud, he helped keep country’s traditionalist flame burning during the crossover-happy mid-to-late ‘90s, mixing classic honky-tonk with elements of gospel, blues, and rock & roll. Born in the small Louisiana town of Sarepta in 1962, Trace took up the guitar at an early age. While attending Louisiana Tech on a football scholarship, he studied music. After graduation, the strapping athlete worked as a pipe fitter on an off-shore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. His pinkie finger was severed (and reattached) in an on-the-job accident. After a few years passed, he returned to music with the gospel quartet the New Commitments.
In the early ‘90s, Adkins began to pursue a solo career, playing honky-tonk bars and clubs as often as he could, honing a powerful, wide-ranging baritone voice in the process. After making a name for himself in the Louisiana – Texas club circuit, Trace moved to Nashville in 1992, working construction while he sang at night looking for his break. It came three years later when Scott Hendricks, then president of Capitol Records, spotted Adkins singing in a working man’s bar outside Nashville, called Tillie & Lucy’s Pub, and signed him. The singer’s one-of-a-kind voice, plus his knack for putting believability into music he sang, whether it dealt with love, loss, sex or blue-collar realities, did the rest.
Adkins debut instantly established him as a rising star. The lead single, “Every Light in the House,” went to #3 on the country charts; “I Left Something Turned on at Home” hit #2; and “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing” went all the way to No. 1. His 1997 follow-up, Big Time, spawned another Top Five hit with “The Rest of Mine.” Another single, “Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone”, peaked at #11. Big Time and its 1999 follow-up More, didn’t quite pack the commercial punch of a Dreamin’ Out Loud, though both featured Top Ten tracks. 2001’s Chrome was the first time an Adkins’ album broke into the country charts Top Five. It was powered by the title track and the stirring single, “I’m Tryin’.” Capitol released Adkins’ Greatest Hits Collection, Vol. 1 in July of 2003; a companion DVD, Video Hits in February 2004, and for good measure, even managed to sandwich in the singer’s fifth studio release, Comin’ on Strong, between the two projects. In 2005, Adkins had a major hit with “Honky-Tonk Badonkadonk” from his double platinum disc, Songs About Me. A year later, the album Dangerous Man was released featuring his second No. 1 hit, “Ladies Love Country Boys.”
Since leaving the labor industry behind him for good, Adkins has since become a multi-faceted entertainer, finding success as a performer, musician, author and actor. His instantly recognizable baritone has been cutting through the airwaves and energizing concert hall speakers for well over a decade as he has established himself as a major force in contemporary country. An esteemed member of the Grand Ole Opry, Trace so far has enjoyed a remarkable twelve-year career that includes 24 hit singles on seven studio albums, national TV appearances and highly successful tours. His latest compilation disc, American Man: Greatest Hits Vol. II was released in December 2007 and includes his three-week #1 smash, “You’re Gonna Miss This.”
Adkins’ body of work has been marked by both good-time anthems and soul-stirring slices of life. The centerpiece of this greatest hits collection may very well be “Honky-Tonk Badonkadonk,” the hip-hop-influenced, across-the-board smash that carried the Louisiana-born singer to new levels of popularity following its 2005 release. However, the song that puts American Man and Adkins’ career into perspective is “Songs About Me.” It not only makes clear the emotional realities behind the best of country music, it puts perspective on Trace’s amazing music career. “Arlington,” is told from the viewpoint of a veteran whose heroism has earned him a spot in one of the nation’s most hallowed resting places. “I Wanna Feel Something” chronicles one man’s battle with the deadening emotional effects of modern day living.
On the flip side, Trace remains a master of light-hearted realism when it comes to relationships between the sexes. It was true with “Ladies Love Country Boys,” which explores the rough-hewn appeal of the rural male demographic, and with “Swing,” chronicling the hits and misses of flirtation. Then there are the songs of praise for attractive women like “Hot Mama,” an ode to the wife who doesn’t know her own sexiness, and “Chrome,” about a take-charge lover of hot wheels. Rounding out the catalog of hits is “Rough & Ready,” an in-your-face blue-collar manifesto that is both funny and dead-on.
This greatest hits project comes at a time when Adkins is increasingly making his mark across the world of popular culture. Long known for his skills as a voiceover announcer both for documentaries and for TV commercials, the singer has added acting to his resume and become an author with the release of A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck. These accomplishments, and his rise as a public figure, represent the culmination of a long and often arduous journey his travels have taken him on.