Trace Adkins

Songs About Me

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It's not entirely a coincidence that Trace Adkins sounds like a streamlined Toby Keith on his sixth album, Songs About Me, since Keith was the biggest country star of the 2000s, or at least the biggest star who shares Adkins' low, deep voice and taste for traditional country. But it's not entirely fair to peg Adkins as a Keith wannabe, either, since Trace has been around as long as Toby, and has mined a similar neo-traditionalist vein for just as long. Still, Songs About Me has the self-conscious air of a Nashville studio product, one that's tailored to a specific sensibility and sound -- one that's not far removed from either Adkins' previous work or Keith's current music, but still feels like it was made with the rough, ready, red-state mentality of the mid-2000s in mind. This sober professionalism has its drawbacks -- everything from the production to the lyrics is a little too studied, and it can't help but pale in comparison to Keith's bawdy, robust redneck anthems -- but it also has its advantages, particularly because Adkins is an assured, professional singer who can sell this material even when it's at its most generic. That he can't quite make it transcend the generic is nothing to fault him for -- if he had better songs, a livelier setting, or a looser production, he might have been able to make this take off -- and even if Songs About Me isn't much more than a solid piece of craftsmanship, it's quite enjoyable at that level.

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