Adkins Offers 'Strong' Adult Flavor

With the deep baritone of a soothing storyteller, Trace Adkins delivers his fifth Capitol studio effort, "Comin' on Strong," on Dec. 2. But despite the inherent gentle tone of his voice, Adkins hopes

With the deep baritone of a soothing storyteller, Trace Adkins delivers his fifth Capitol studio effort, "Comin' on Strong," on Dec. 2. But despite the inherent gentle tone of his voice, Adkins hopes fans will take notice of what he has to say this time around.

"I don't think it should come with an 'illicit' sticker or anything, but it's an adult album. It's not for kids," says Adkins. The first single, "Hot Mama," which is No. 27 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, addresses a man's appreciation for his wife's looks.

"I had more fun making this album probably than any other album I've made before," he says. "It's definitely my most mature."

"Comin' on Strong" follows Adkins' recovery from alcohol abuse and -- aside from the boisterous opening of the first single and the stomping ending of "Rough & Ready" -- reflects a romantic nostalgia in its song list.

"I didn't say, 'OK, I've been through this, I think I need to talk about this and that.' That wasn't at all a part of it," he says. "Maybe some of that stuff crept in there, but I didn't do it consciously."

Adkins does consciously carry on the double-entendre tradition of his 1997 No. 2 hit, "I Left Something Turned on at Home," with album standout "I'd Sure Hate To Break Down Here."

"That's songwriting at its best," Adkins says of the story of a road trip away from a broken relationship, written by Jess Brown and Patrick Jason Matthews. "That's someone who knows what they're doing, and I appreciate that."

Co-producer Trey Bruce also writes with Matthews on "One Night Stand," whose title doubles as a reference to an illicit encounter and the piece of furniture on which the remnants of a marriage are scattered.

Reunited with Scott Hendricks, who produced Adkins' first two albums for Capitol, the album comes just four months after the success of Adkins' "Greatest Hits Collection, Volume I," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and produced the top-10 single, "Then They Do."

"We only released one single off that greatest-hits album, so we needed to be ready to keep the momentum going," says Adkins, who was already in the process of recording songs for "Comin' on Strong" when the label decided to work the greatest-hits project.

Though the new album is hitting stores late in the industry's busiest buying season, Fletcher Foster, senior VP of marketing for Capitol Records in Nashville, says, "To me, it's not based on first-week sales. There are so many singles we can go to, and I think this record is so incredibly strong that it will be about the longevity."

With country music radio's current trend toward coarser, macho male artists like Toby Keith, the uptempo "Hot Mama," which Adkins sings with a growl in some places, was the label's strategic choice for introducing the album.

Fletcher thinks Adkins benefits from being an artist who can appeal to both sexes. He says Adkins differs from an artist like Keith in his diversity. "I think there's a similar audience, but the ballads really broaden Trace's audience a lot more."

Capitol hopes to bring Adkins' career to the heights of singers like Keith. All of Adkins' albums have reached the top 10, though only one of his singles (1996's "(This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing") reached No. 1.

To increase awareness, the label is focusing on TV visibility, including a Thanksgiving special with chef Emeril Lagasse and an appearance on "The Best Damn Sports Show." Adkins will record "The Ballad of Hank Hill" for Fox's "King of the Hill" show and will also contribute his voice to a character in an upcoming episode.

Though it is still in the works, Adkins is looking forward to a promotional tour that will kick off early next year. "I like to get up there with the whole band behind me and turn it up-you know, romp and stomp and have a good time," he says.

Excerpted from the Nov. 29, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

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