Four-time Grammy nominated singer Trace Adkins has found a system that works. Take what is probably the most recognizable voice in music, throw in some fun songs, some love songs,some about his family, and some patriotic songs and you have a recipe for a successful album. "Proud To Be Here", Trace's tenth effort (not counting three greatest hits compilations) is no different, but that does not mean that his music is stale. Adkins has always found ways to make fresh music, no matter what.
Proud To Be Here - Adkins leads off with the title track, a genuine, heartfelt track saying how grateful he is that he is still alive. Having read his autobiography, I understand how lucky he is when he sings "I'm just proud to be/ On the right side of the dirt/ I've been loved/ and I've been hurt", later adding "I've been living on borrowed time for years". Adkins, among other things, took a shotgun blast from point blank in the chest from his wife and lived, so he truly is "Proud to be here". The song will resonate with anyone who can look back on their life and see how many times things could have gone differently.
Million Dollar View - As mentioned, one of the things that Trace is known for is his songs about the love he has for his family. This track is the first of such songs. It comes off as a bit of a re-hash of Lonestar's "Outside Looking In" as Trace sings about how of all the beautiful views he could see in the world, the one in his house is the most valuable.
Days Like This - It is a beautiful day, both weather-wise and mentally, and Trace is determined to let nothing ruin it. "So don't bring me a paper/ don't turn on the news/ If it'ill fire me up/ Keep it away from my view/ If the world's gone to hell/ Let it go, I'll blow it a kiss/ Don't want to think about things like that/ On days like this". Given the state of affairs in the world, one can hardly fault him for tuning it out for a day.
That's What You Get - Adkins has a lot to offer a woman, and he goes about explaining it in this upbeat love song, stopping for flowers and other gifts before adding: "That's what you get/ For loving me/ Two strong arms and a heart that won't stop for anything/ The kind of man a woman needs".
Just Fishin' - Another song about his love for his family, Trace's first single from the album about the story behind the scenes as he takes his daughter fishing, spending time and connecting with her: "She ain't even thinking about/ What's really going on right now/ But I guarantee this memories a big'un/ And she thinks we're just fishin'". The song is beautifully written and the video stars his actual daughter, check it out below:
It's A Woman Thang - In what may be one of the most catchy, but controversial songs (it comes off a bit sexist), Trace sets out to explain that guys should just stop trying to understand things their ladies do, but half way through, he thinks about trying: "Maybe I should watch some Oprah/ Bubble bath, sit on the sofa/ Maybe take a 'Cosmo' quiz or two/ Maybe all I need's a hug from/ Fred or Bubba, or 'Big Dubya'/ Maybe I'll come to see your point of view/ NAH, IT'S A WOMAN THANG!". Trace has the reputation of this sort of song dating back to "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" that allows him to get away with this sort of song, but not many other artists could have.
Love Buzz - Adkins is acting strange, and people begin to suspect him of hitting the bottle a little hard. To the contrary, he has not touched the alcohol, but his baby has given him the "Love Buzz". The off-cantor style of the song lends to the idea of being drunk and fits the lyrics perfectly.
It's Who You Know - Religion is a theme that plays a important role in country music, and Trace adds to it, explaining "You can walk on water/ You can walk on the moon/ You can walk through Memphis wearing blue suede shoes/ When the walkin' is over/ At the end of the road/ It ain't what you've done, son/ It's who you know". The song is not overtly religious until the preacher clip at the end, which I think detracts from the song.
Poor Folks - Adkins is living the simple life, and wondering what the "poor folks are doing tonight". He is not talking about money though. He is talking about the ones that have everything, and yet "ain't got nothin', on us", because he has a love that is more valuable than anything their money can buy. The medium paced song is good, but nothing special.
Always Gonna Be That Way - This is probably the most stale song of the album. It feels like it has been done so many time before: Alan Jackson - "It's Just That Way" and George Strait - "It Just Comes Natural" to name a few. Nothing ever changes, and eventually, Trace (like Alan and George) point out that goes for his love for his woman. The song is not bad, just feels overdone.
That concludes the album, but there are 4 bonus tracks:
Damn You Bubba - I like this song, because the guy he is singing about, Bubba, reminds me a bit of me. Bubba is the guy in the bar who walks into a bar and is the center of the attention. He does not have to do much to get the women to notice him, much to the dismay of Trace, who is trying hard to pick up a woman. He is arrogant makes all the guys jealous. As it turns out, Bubba and Trace are brothers, and Trace just got the short end of the stick. The song is fun, but will not likely be a hit for a while. The end has a bit of a "Big Lebowski" reference as well: "You call yourself 'The Bubba?/ Who does that, really?"
More Of Us - Trace rolls religion, politics, and patriotism and rolls them all into one song. Trace believes (and not without reason) that his beliefs are being trampled on by the government, and it is time to show them that "There's more of us/ Than there are of them". As I mentioned in the Justin Moore review, I am over the whole idea of "Political Country", and one cannot help but wonder if Trace's label owner, Toby Keith, did not have something to do with this being on the album.
If I Was A Woman - After joining Blake Shelton on the song "Hillbilly Bone", Blake returns the favor as they sing about how "If I was a woman/ I'd love a man like me". They then launch into a fun game of "one-upping" as they try to prove why they are the better man. The song is highly entertaining, and the two singers work well together when they are having fun.
Semper Fi - Trace ends the bonus tracks with another tribute to the military, this time singling out the Marines. Having the military background that I do, I could not help but chuckle at the first lines of the song about getting the first haircut. Trace is on the ball throughout the song though, and these military tributes have become one of Trace's signatures: "Semper Fi/ Do or Die/ So gung ho to go and pay the price/ Here's to leathernecks/ Devil Dogs and Jar Heads/ And here's to Paris Island in July/ Semper Fi". The second verse is great, as Adkins demonstrates his gratitude for the things he has not had to experience because the young kid next door volunteered instead. Semper Fi is a great song that any military man or woman can relate to, without crossing the line into being political.
Overall, there is a lot to like about "Proud to Be Here" and while it is not stale, per se, the album does suffer a bit as there is nothing particularly new about Trace's music. 7/10