Seventeen seconds into opening track “Brown Chicken Brown Cow,” Trace Adkins lets out a guttural grunt. It’s the first sound he makes on Cowboy’s Back In Town, but it’s more or less indicative of what’s to come. Adkins eleventh studio album finds him gruffly fumbling through eleven clumsy songs full of obnoxious lyrics and unnecessary machismo on what is a depressing departure from his career high-mark, 2008’s Ten.
On Ten, Adkins beautifully applied his remarkable baritone to a number of brilliant songs, like “’Till The Last Shot’s Fired” and “Sometimes A Man Takes a Drink,” that should’ve been hits. They weren’t—the album failed to produce a single Top 10 hit and ended up as one of his worst selling albums ever.
With Cowboy’s Back In Town, his first album for Show Dog-Universal Music, Adkins cedes the artistic ground he gained on Ten, retreating to his familiar fort of throwaway redneck anthems.
But some of these songs are a stretch even by Adkins’ standards, like “Hold My Beer,” a simply ridiculous trailer-trash wedding tale in which the groom asks the preacher to hold his can of beer so that he can kiss his new bride. And as for “Ala-Freakin-Bama,” all I can say is “What the freakin’ hella?”
Tender-voiced ballad “Still Love You,” offers some melodic sanctuary from the up-tempo onslaught (thanks in part to a tasteful piano track), but lyrics like, “The last time this world spins around/The moment after time runs out/Baby, I will still love you” offer so little substance that you almost wish Adkins would just stick to singing moderately amusing one-liners like “I now pronounce you y’all.”
Adkins has shown that he has one of country music’s best voices, but he just doesn’t seem interested in using it for anything other than some of the cheapest music Nashville can muster. Cowboy’s Back in Town is simply a woeful collection of songs, and although Adkins’ powerful voice sometimes shines in spite of the material, as a whole the album is a meandering and generic effort that aims low and hits its mark.
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