Trace Adkins released his second album on Showdog-Universal last week. He’s always been a favorite artist of mine, not afraid to say what’s on his mind, and with his unique deep voice that stands out on radio. His albums, unfortunately, have always been all over the place: he can go from an excellent record like “X” or “Dreaming Out Loud” then put out “Cowboy’s Back in Town” to mixed reviews from critics. His singles have been the same way: the same artist releases a beautiful song like “You’re Gonna Miss This” or a single like “Brown Chicken, Brown Cow” which quickly gets taken off of radio with an apology by Trace for even releasing it. While I enjoyed “Cowboy’s Back in Town,” this time around he’s released a solid album without any questionable tracks. Even the bonus tracks are great, one of which features Blake Shelton. “Proud To Be Here” is just as consistent as his best works, and should do much better than his last album. It definitely is something to be proud of for the former Celebrity Apprentice contestant.
The album is filled with tracks that make you want to dance, a bonus track that makes you laugh (“If I Was A Woman” featuring Blake Shelton), and songs that you don’t hear on country radio today. That’s exactly what separates it from the rest of the pack: there’s nothing that makes you feel like you’ve been-there-done-that on “Proud To Be Here.” It’s more intimate than “Cowboy’s Back In Town” and feels more like Trace. The album is great, but it’s his voice that makes it successful: with any other artist, these songs would not be as good as they are now. It’s his deep, rich baritone vocals that bring the songs home. It’s an album made with soul, which is different from his last release. “Proud To Be Here” will make any Trace fan happy.
The album opens up with the title track “Proud To Be Here.” It’s a track that has become Trace’s theme song as of late since his family home burned down weeks ago while he was Alaska bound. It’s a track that reflects on his past as a performer, from when he had no money and he was playing for tips to where he is today. It’s a perfect fit for Trace right now, whose unique voice is at its best at ballads and tunes like this one. In the song, Trace sings about how proud he is of where he is, and how he doesn’t worry about the hard things and lives without regrets. It’s something you can really believe from him after everything he has gone through in his life, especially the last few months. It’s a solid track and was the perfect choice for the title track, although I don’t know how good of a single it would be if released. There’s much catchier tunes on the album than “Proud To Be Here,” but that’s not saying that the track isn’t good: it is, and it’s perfect for where he is in his life right now.
“Million Dollar View” is about how Trace is happiest at home than he is at some fancy hotel in New York City or Los Angeles, or an exotic beach. To him, the perfect view is his family and the living room with the shades closed. It’s a reminder of how much of a family man he really is, even with silly past singles like “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” Even though the song is meant to be about his lover and how perfect she is to look at, it’s not a big stretch to think that it’s also about his daughters, too, and how happy he is just to be at home with his family. To Trace, a “Million Dollar View” is just sitting at home and watching the ones he loves the most. While it sounds cheesy, it’s really not, and he takes the whole beautiful thing a different direction than other artists would. While it might not be a number one single if released, it’s another track that fits in perfectly between “Proud To Be Here” and “Days Like This.”
The third track, “Days Like This” is tailor-made for country radio which has been craving the softer side of Adkins. The song, a co-write by Trace with Kenny Beard and Casey Beathard, it’s a song where he doesn’t want to think about all the bad things going on in the world and how he just wants to enjoy his time on that day. It’s a believable tune, especially after the devastating fire, where he’s proud about a simple life and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a song that proves that Adkins has never been anything but country, and is another choice for a radio single. It’s who he really is, no matter how loud or belligerent of a single he releases.
“That’s What You Get” picks up the pace after the first three ballad-driven tracks the album opens up with. The title of the song tricks you, making you think it’s a revenge-oriented song or a rocker, but it’s actually a love song. Trace brags about the kind of lover he is in the track, using an example of stopping on the way home to pick up some roses for his wife, or how he won’t stop himself from doing anything for her. It’s a cute song that visits the I-love-you theme differently than other artists could or would. He keeps his tough image while still showing off his soft side at the same time. It’s a good, cute track but doesn’t quite stand up to “Just Fishin’ “ in quality.
“Just Fishin’ “ is the lead-off single to the album, which was the perfect pick and immediately makes “Proud To Be Here” stand out from “Cowboy’s Back In Town.” It’s a single that you just have to love, and serves as a throwback to “You’re Gonna Miss This.” It’s the side of Trace that radio loves and country music fans soak right up. In the song, Trace sings about how he’s out fishing with his daughter who doesn’t think it’s anything more complicated than that: but daddy Trace is just there making memories and spending time with his little girl. It’s the catchiest and sweetest track on the album, and a stand-out. This is the kind of songs Trace should be recording more often, even if it goes against his tough-guy image. It’s his baritone vocals that make the song stand out even more. “Just Fishin’” is stronger than any single released off of his last album, and helps show how much more comfortable he is this time around with his new label home. It’s my favorite off of the album and should be one of the top singles of his career.
“It’s A Woman Thing” is a funny little track put in to prove that the comedian part of Trace isn’t gone for good. It reminds me a lot of Kellie Pickler’s “Things That Never Cross A Man’s Mind” but I do enjoy this a lot more than hers. It’s when he slows down the track with the female backing vocals making fun of Cosmo quizzes that makes the track. While some women may be offended by the track, I find it funny and classic Trace. It’s a nice change of pace from the rest of the album, focusing more on his silly side than his serious one. While it might not be released as a single because of the results of releasing “Brown Chicken, Brown Cow,” it’s still a good track that was made for the album.
“Love Buzz” is a track that focuses just on his bluesy-quality voice this time around. While the lyrics are cute but not earth shattering, it’s his voice that really makes the track what it is. The song is about how he can’t feel any pain or realize anything bad in the world because he’s in love. His lover is always on his mind and is the only person he wants to be with all the time. He compares his lover to a “good drug” that gives him a “love buzz.” His voice is sexy on the verses, but the choruses don’t stand up to the rest of the song.
“It’s Who You Know” is a bipolar track: one that is enjoyable for three quarters but gets confusing the last third when the preacher part kicks in. It’s a good tune on no matter what you do, you can’t do anything or get anywhere based on who you know. He uses walking on water as an example, saying that in the end it doesn’t matter unless you know someone. It’s a fast-paced song that is likely pretty true in the music industry today. All the good from the track quickly gets tossed to the side near the end when the preacher joins the song, shouting over Trace’s vocals. It ruins the song, in my opinion, and just doesn’t make sense. The rest of the song is enjoyable, however.
“Poor Folks” is one of my favorite tracks off of “Proud To Be Here.” It’s a stripped-down track that focuses on the lyrics and his ability to tell a story in a song. It’s an easy listening tune that you could be out sitting on the front porch drinking a beer to, or be inside on your favorite recliner. It reminds me a little bit of something Alan Jackson would record, and although it’s another one of the slower songs that the album is packed with, it’s still quality and great to listen to.
“Always Gonna Be This Way” starts off with a pretty piano introduction. On the standard edition, it’s the closing track and a perfect choice for the closer. With “Proud To Be Here” opening the album, “Always Gonna Be That Way” is a reflection of the title track, but without coming off as a part two. It’s a small-town pride song, which is touched on by almost every artist in country music, but Trace finds another way to hit familiar themes in a different way. While it’s probably not single material, it’s a beautiful song that closes off the standard edition strong.
“Damn You Bubba” is the first bonus track off of the deluxe edition of the album. Two of the bonus tracks are redneck, funny, comedic Trace that is missing from most of the album. It gives fans a choice of what version they like the best of the singer: the soft or rough sides. It’s a funny little ditty where he curses out a man named Bubba who has “a J-O-B” and can afford things like a new pair of jeans, and calls himself “the Bubba.” The outtro to the song where Trace is teasing Bubba is probably the best part of the song: turns out they’re brothers and Trace brags about still having the “Tonka Truck you lost when we were kids.” This track, followed by the Blake Shelton duet, make the extra money for the deluxe edition worth it.
“More Of Us” is the second of the four bonus tracks featured on the deluxe edition of “Proud To Be Here.” It’s the strongest song of the bonus track, which is a fighting song where he picks sides between people who believe in what America was founded on, than the people who are trying to change society. It’s a me versus them song, but Trace says there’s more on his side than “theirs.” He directly calls out D.C. for their policies that he feels are destroying his country and what he believes in. Trace says it’s time to “push back” and “take a stand” with his “proud American friends.” It’s an anthem song and the loudest-and-proudest of the entire album. I could see it released as a future single from the album.
“If I Was A Woman” has Trace calling in friend Blake Shelton for a hilarious song that could serve as a reply song to Reba’s “If I Were A Boy.” While the song will never have the success that “Hillbilly Bone” had for the pair, it’s a song that plays off of the pair’s friendship and humor. It was one of the more anticipated tracks since the duet was announced to fans a few months ago. In the original version of the song that leaked on YouTube, Trace admits that it was supposed to be Toby Keith on the song with him, but I think it works better with Shelton on it. The two trade jabs back and forth throughout the song, including using each others’ songs (a reference to Shelton’s “Some Beach” is used in a line). It’s pretty much how you’d imagine the pair talking to each other and joking around. It includes a part where Blake joins the song too early and deals with Trace calling him “too stupid to be a woman.” It’s a cute song that will be hilarious live if ever performed by the pair. It’s another one of the co-writes on the album by Trace. Here’s hoping the song makes a live appearance when he co-hosts the American Country Awards December 5th on Fox.
“Semper Fi” is a tribute song Trace wrote for the United States Marines. It’s the closing song of the entire album, a slow ballad giving props to the Marines and how they keep everyone safe back home. If there’s one thing that people need to know about Trace, it’s his respect for the military and history. There might not be anyone else in country music that pays as much tribute to both than him. It’s not another “Till The Last Shot’s Fired” but it’s still a touching tribute to those that risk their lives for freedom.
Overall, it’s a solid effort by Trace that is a big step up from “Cowboy’s Back In Town.” It’s an album I would recommend to anyone looking for an album to either drive around listening to, or for sitting back at home with a cold beer and taking it easy. It’s classic Trace, whichever way you like him best. While most artists and labels divide deluxe albums economically, this time they divided it by the two sides: the redneck or the big heart. Fans can choose which way they like Trace best. Either way you purchase the album is worth it in the end, and there’s no “Brown Chicken, Brown Cow” mess of a song this time around. With upcoming releases from Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum it might not make album of the year honors, but it’s still one of Trace’s best efforts put forward. “Proud To Be Here” is something to be proud of afterall.
TRACE ADKINS: PROUD TO BE HERE
Rating: 8 / 10
DOWNLOAD: Proud To Be Here, Just Fishin’, Poor Folks, Always Gonna Be That Way, Damn You Bubba, If I Was A Woman.