Trace Adkins

It is one of the most powerful and distinctive voices in country music history, and fittingly enough it belongs to one of the genre's true rugged individualists. The booming baritone and unshakable sense of self have made Trace Adkins a star, but it is the indelible stamp of authenticity he brings to his life and music that have made his body of work so important to so many people.

In the past year, Trace has reaped many of the rewards he has sown with a decade of hard work and working-class anthems. He is thrilling packed houses across the country with one of the industry's highest-energy shows. He has been made a member of the Grand Ole Opry and of the board of directors of the Country Music Association. He has been a frequent guest on TV talkfests and shows including "King Of The Hill" and "Yes, Dear," and spent time as a national spokesman for KFC.

Both his "Comin' On Strong" CD and "Trace Adkins Video Hits" have recently been certified platinum, and his "Greatest Hits Collection, Volume I," which entered the charts at No. 1, is on the verge. His CD "Chrome" has also gone gold.

Now, with the release of "Songs About Me," he is poised for yet another breakthrough, this time to country's elite territory. The album is filled with the kind of grit and passion for which he has always been known, and the title track is the fastest-moving single hes had in several years. The recognition may be greater than ever, but the formula behind it hasn't changed. "I record songs I can believe in and sing with conviction," he says. "It's that simple."

For the first time, he is traveling this year with his own stage set, but as always, it is the long-haired, 6'6" singer who provides the spectacle.

"I don't do the same show on any two nights," he says. "My shows are predicated on what kind of environment I'm in. If it's a fair or festival setting it's toned done a little, then there's a different set for casinos, and a different kind of mindset. The arenas are the most complicated because everything comes together there -- you've got kids and you've got older people and there's this energy that you just can't hardly control. Then there are beer joints -- man, I love to get in one every two months or so. I have to have it, just to get in there and turn it loose and do those shows like I used to do 15 years ago."

Back then, Trace was tearing it up in the honky-tonks of Texas and Louisiana, following stints both in a gospel group and as a pipe fitter on an off-shore drilling rig. He moved to Nashville in 1992 and did construction work to survive while he sang at night and looked for his break.

Trace had been in Nashville for three years when he was spotted playing in a bar by long-time producer Scott Hendricks, who signed him to Capitol. That one-of-a-kind voice and the knack for songs that dealt with love, loss, sex, and blue-collar realities head-on have done the rest. As the hits have come, Trace has remained one of country's most down-to-earth standard-bearers, and in the past few years fans and critics alike have begun to give him his due. Now, with the release of "Songs About Me," that process is about to carry him into elite territory.


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