Trace Adkins

Cowboy's Back in Town

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Trace Adkins' Cowboy's Back in Town is his debut on Toby Keith's Show Dog imprint. It features 11 cuts, most of them underscoring the rowdy barroom cowboy image that the artist has quite literally lived up to. The set was preceded by two singles, "Ala-Freakin-Bama," which scraped its way inside the Top 50 on Billboard's country chart, and more recently, the rock ballad "This Ain't No Love Song," that climbed into the Top 30. These may not seem like impressive numbers, but given the sheer volume of recordings coming out of Nashville every week, it's nothing to sneeze at. Michael Knox is credited as producer, though Kenny Beard produced both singles and three other cuts of the 11 featured here. The set kicks off with a hard, funky banjo on "Brown Chicken Brown Cow" before it's joined by a pair of metallic guitars riffing, explosive drums, a clavinet (adding to the funk effect), a B-3, and a lap steel. We've heard hard rockers from Adkins before, but this one feels more like the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Nashville. "Hold My Beer" is more in the contemporary country mold, being equal parts John Mellencamp and .38 Special. The title track might have been a perfect advance radio single, and is certainly no less so than the two aforementioned ones. In it, Adkins' rich baritone is accompanied by mandolins, acoustic and electric guitars, a B-3, and an anthemic chorus. "Hell I Can Do That" is pure irony in the classic country tradition. It's a song about losing big, performed as a midtempo party rocker -- complete with a Rolling Stones-style cowbell à la "Honky Tonk Women." "Ala-Freakin-Bama" sounds exactly like its title: it's pure, redneck, hard rock with a prominent banjo for country cred. The only true tear jerker here, "Still Love You" with its synth strings, doesn't work plain and simple. It's added for balance on an otherwise solid outing from Adkins. Cowboy's Back in Town reveals that this singer can do one thing well; but he does it really well -- and that's offer tough, utterly masculine, contemporary country-rock -- check the closer "Whoop a Man's Ass" -- convincingly.

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