Adkins dishes up comfortable country

by Alison Bonaguro
Special to the Tribune

Published July 8, 2008


There must be some kind of redneck checklist country stars carry around in their back pockets.

You know the one. It has songs about gun racks, camouflage britches, country roads, Skoal rings and good-hearted women.

And on Sunday night at Naperville Ribfest, Trace Adkins checked off every single one with his dark and earthy baritone.

The show wasn't quite sold out, but the fields of Knoch Park were covered with blankets, lawn chairs and barbecue-lovin' country fans.

And Adkins, 46, sounded as if he had finally grown into the rich voice he has been throwing around Nashville for the last decade.

It made the uptempo dance songs feel rugged and a little dirty, yet managed to keep the ballads quiet enough to stop the crowd from texting and chatting.

Whatever he was singing about seemed to mirror the emotions of the everyman. At least, the suburban everyman.

So when Adkins dove into "You're Gonna Miss This," his latest hit with the sage advice to appreciate the right here right now, a few fans even bowed their heads to listen a little harder to the lyrics.

Same with his other stop-and-think tunes such as "Arlington," "I Came Here to Live" and "American Man," which he said he recorded for his old man.

"He's the real deal, man," Adkins said of his father. "He's on top of my hero list."

The small festival stage was packed tight with the solid musicians that made up Adkins' seven-man band. Adkins himself even played an acoustic guitar on about half the songs of his 18-song set.

Then near the middle of the show, Adkins made this announcement: "I'm afraid we have reached the end of the wholesome portion of the show."

That was his intro to the litany of rock arrangements on tunes such as "Rough & Ready," "Chrome," "Hot Mama," and the hugely successful and irreverently catchy "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk."

Adkins may not have set out to be the poster boy for sexy country, but with a signature sound that's part Barry White and part southern drawl, it's hard not to blush when he's on stage.


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