You know, Trace Adkins could seriously be a country music legend if he wanted to be. In a lot of ways he could have been sort of like Dwight Yoakam (in terms of career trajectory) – an artist who didn’t rack up a ton of hits, sure, but also one whose talent cut through that facade, making things such as commercial appeal seem silly anyway. He’s certainly got one of the best voices in country music, and he’s used it to record some excellent songs. Unfortunately, he’s also used it to record some pretty stupid songs as well.
You would think now that Trace Adkins isn’t tied to a major label anymore (remember, Broken Bow/Wheelhouse is independent despite Lynch and Aldean) that he would exercise that creative freedom to stop chasing after what radio wants and start doing what he wants. Maybe he is, but if his new album is an indication of that, then I have a feeling I’m never going to get that Trace Adkins legacy album I’ve always wanted.
Something’s Going On is the type of release that’s more disappointing than outright bad, and it all boils down to one thing – age. On “Watered Down” he sings about slowing down and not being the young gun he used to be, being aware of his current situation and embracing it with open arms. Yet on at least half of this album, he’s either employing more modern production techniques, or he’s acting half his age through the lyrics here. In other words, it would seem my letter didn’t quite work like I wanted it to.
“Ain’t Just The Whiskey Talkin” is an unfortunate way to start the album with the lines, “you’re so cool, you’re so hot, shakin’ that thing with everything you’ve got”, and a song like “If Only You Were Lonely” utilizes the stringing together of singular words to form a verse (“Friday, neon, cold beer, got one, if only you were lonely”). It’s as if he wanted to hop aboard the bro-country train only to realize the station has been abandoned for a couple years by now.
I had high hopes for a song like “I’m Gone”, especially when I saw that Craig Campbell was behind it. Instead, I ended up listening to a stupid ditty that uses “I’m Gone” to actually mean “gon”, as in “I’m gon do this, I’m gon do that”. There’s a nice fiddle breakdown here, but that can’t save this song. Of course, none compare to the absolute atrocity “Country Boy Problems” with its talk of being “so country” and utilizing every single item on the cliché checklist. I normally hate these type of songs, and this is no exception.
Now, there are moments I do like on this album believe it or not. “Watered Down” is the type of song that reminds you that for every five to ten stupid songs Trace records, he also records one that is a truly excellent song. There’s a warmer production to this, with the mandolin creeping in every so often to really drive in that intimate feel. It’s a welcome anomaly to the bland, stiff electronic production we otherwise get on many of these tracks. “Hang” is also a sweet enough love song that once again shows Trace acknowledging that there’s more important things to do in life than worry, which is why spending time with a loved one is important.
Aside from those two however, the rest of these tracks have their moments despite not really being great (or even really good) songs. “Jesus and Jones” is another example of Trace’s reflection of where he’s at in his life, and it’s got good intentions (that does matter). However it is disrespectful to George Jones for insinuating that living like him means drinking yourself silly. He did that do more than that in his time here you know. The title track actually has a nice ominous, moody atmosphere to it that I liked, especially with the opening piano line. The lyrics also insinuate at first that this could be a cheating song with a man catching his lover in the act. Instead it’s just a sex song. For what it is it’s not bad, but really, it could have been better if it had embraced the darkness.
“Still A Soldier” is a good, albeit broadly sketched picture of a solider living in a post-war world, but considering the production is pretty bland and forgettable, I’ll stick with “Arlington” and “’Til The Last Shot’s Fired”.
Other than that though, I’ll admit that “Lit” is a lot more fun that I remember it being, and if I were to ever indulge into some of my guilty pleasures in a review, “Gonna Make You Miss Me” is arguably the most contemporary song on this entire album, and it’s understandable if you all hate it, especially for that Taylor Swift line at the end (even I don’t like that). But I don’t know, between the banjo bolstering the melody, the more liquid tones, and the catchy as all hell melody, I can’t hate this at all. Despite his rougher, grittier tone, Trace still does a great job with this from a vocal standpoint.
But overall, again, this isn’t so much a bad album (aside from “Country Boy Problems” as it is an unfortunate one,something that probably keeps the score from being lower than what I’m going to give it. Again, there are some nice moments as well – I love “Watered Down”, and I’m probably not going to get “Gonna Make You Miss Me” out of my head anytime soon. I keep waiting for the day when Trace actually wakes up and realizes he can make the music he wants to make though. Maybe that day is here and this is his album. Just speaking as a fan though, I was hoping for more.
Favorite Tracks: “Watered Down”, “Gonna Make You Miss Me”, “Hang”