Trace Adkins

Proud to Be Here

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The title track on Trace Adkins' Proud to Be Here, which opens his tenth album of new material, has a particular poignancy: before its release, Adkins' Brentwood, Tennessee home burned to the ground due to an electrical fire. He was on tour when the disaster took place but his wife and children were at home -- thankfully, they escaped unharmed. Tragedy aside, this set follows Adkins after a big 2010: his Definitive Greatest Hits: Til the Last Shot's Fired peaked at number 12 on the Billboard country charts and he scored two awards -- one each at the CMT and ACM awards -- for Vocal Effort of the Year and Best Collaborative Video, respectively, with the chart-topping hit single "Hillbilly Bone," in duet with Blake Shelton. Proud to Be Here, produced by Kenny Beard and Mark Wright, is a changeup for the artist and was preceded by the Top 20 single "Just Fishin'" -- whose video stars the singer's daughter. Both the title track and the single reflect a lot of what Adkins does best, offering a distinctly contemporary version of country music that sticks a lot closer to tradition than it does the current trend of '70s redneck rock, which has increasingly infected Nashville studios like a disease since 2002. Adkins shows that while honky tonk, 2-step country, and the outlaw tradition can be updated, the music doesn't have to sacrifice its soul in the process. Check the bluesy feel of "Love Buzz," with its skittering snare drums. Adkins' voice walks a beautifully loose line between honky tonk, blues, and even R&B in his delivery. "Just Fishin'" may contain a standard narrative of contemporary country -- family -- but his protagonist is a father who understands the complete depth of experience in taking his young daughter fishing; his delivery is imbued with real knowledge of the tradition's art of storytelling in song. Given that Proud to Be Here has been designed for the charts, there are concessions to current trends -- the rockist "It's Who You Know," with its shimmering tambourines, power chords, and arena rock drums; the Fleetwood Mac-esque guitars in "That's What You Get" -- but these are minor missteps on an otherwise solid recording. Proud to Be Here adds to Adkins' well-deserved reputation as a stylist and an artist who stands apart.

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