Country Jukebox Jury LP: Trace Adkins – The Way I Wanna Go

90 minutes of music, with contributions from Pitbull, Snoop Dogg and Stevie Wonder, makes me think that this a hodgepodge even before I hear it. Trace is best known for the ballad You’re Gonna Miss This, and also being quite mean to women, and also winning the All-Star Celebrity Apprentice.

His new, exhausting album begins with Where I Am Today, a Peach Pickers track that’s one of their thinkers, as Trace sings of ‘sacred ground’, ‘a goodnight kiss’ and ‘staring at the sunsets a little longer’. Luke Bryan or Blake Shelton probably had this, and many of the album’s tracks, on hold. Trace is in their vein, a country boy singing about life.

Similarly, Barry Dean and Brothers Osborne wrote The Way I Wanna Go, which mature performer Trace picked off the shelf. I would love to hear TJ duet with Trace, as their voices complement each other well. The brothers also wrote the fun Big from Trace’s 2020 EP Ain’t That Kind of Cowboy, which at six songs was too short. Here, the album is too long, and it’s a shame that there are eleven tracks after The Way I Wanna Go, which would make a closer for a tight collection. Perhaps you can Choose Your Own Trace Adkins Adventure if you cherrypick your favourites.

Country signifiers are plentiful on the ploddy rocker Cowboy Boots and Jeans. Jon Nite, Michael Hardy, Zach Crowell and Hunter Phelps churn out songs every day that namecheck Carolina and California like Somewhere In America, which Trace sings admirably. The Randy Montana co-write Jesus Was a Hippie is a meaningful conversation in a bar that Trace sells really well. Trace himself co-wrote It All Adds Up To Us, where ‘two soft hands and two that are rough’ are compared to other things which make a perfect pair.

There’s a lot of great imagery on Careful Girl, the kind of song the radio doesn’t play in 2021 but which has the hook ‘you’re gonna wind up in a song’. Empty Chair sounds like a classic and will appeal to men who have watched Trace at a US Overseas show. There’s plenty of pathos on You’re Mine, an old-fashioned country melody with a fine vocal performance and a lyric about letting the past be the past, and I Should Let You Go, which sounds like a Garth showstopper.

Love and stuff is also represented on the album by Heartbreak Song, where Trace keeps turning the dial to find a song ‘to share my pain’; Finding My Groove, a middle of the dirt road ballad with soft acoustic guitar and a rhyme ‘needle on vinyl/rescue-me revival’; Live It Lonely (‘if I lost my one and only’); Cowboy Up, a neat song where Trace pinches himself at how lucky he is to have his belle; and Honey Child (‘I’m gonna love you old school’), which uses the backing vocalists expertly.

A collaboration between Paul Overstreet, Kendall Marvell and Dan Auerbach led to Cadillac’n, a charming driving song where ‘baby’s on my right, wind in her hair’. Alt-rock pinup Melissa Etheridge duets on the power ballad Love Walks Through The Rain, a song co-written by Marla Cannon-Goodman with orchestral flourishes. Memory To Memphis features a harmonica solo from Stevie Wonder and bluesy wailing from Keb Mo, while Trace tells about his trip across America to get an ex out of his mind.

It’s a Good Thing I Don’t Drink has Trace pleading his own defence on ‘a harmless joke’ between three friends. It includes the word ‘fornicators’ in the chorus, which is a very Trace Adkins word. Like Toby Keith, he’s the kind of guy (at least in her persona) who doesn’t take any prisoners. Another standout track, which first appeared on a 2011 album, is If I Was a Woman (‘I’d love a man like me!’), where Trace and his great mate Blake Shelton trade quips over a sort of honkytonk Buble sound.

Got It Down was gifted to him by Craig Wiseman. Trace is ‘still hanging tough for another round’, chuckling to himself before a verse dedicated to his ‘baby’ and the arguments they have. Like Toby, Trace’s voice is full of character and I wish some of the contemporary voices had even HALF as much. I love the ad libs at the end of the song too, as Trace demands ‘a big old country-and-western ending…not exactly what I had in mind’. The album closer Welcome To is another Wiseman co-write (perhaps rejected by Blake?) which frames a visit to a small town as ‘between the Welcome To and the Y’All Come Back’.

I wonder if Snoop Dogg has heard of Hank Williams and George Jones, who are both namechecked on the duet So Do The Neighbors, which may well use the same backing track as Where My Country Girls At, the dopey tune with Pitbull and Luke Bryan collecting a big cheque for doing not very much. Similarly silly is Low Note, where Trace advises the listener to tell their boss to shove it and ‘leave ‘em on a low note’, matching the lyric with his deep vocal tones.

No Trace Adkins fan will complain about hearing 25 tunes. Morgan Wallen has spent most of this year enjoying the fruits of his 30-track album, while Jason Aldean is preparing a hybrid 30-track set with 20 originals and 10 live versions of his hits. The future is music, and lots of it, and Trace is in on the act too. He’s got plenty of gigs lined up in 2022. I wish he’d find time to come to the UK!

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