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He is, quite simply, country music's Alpha male, a towering presence in an era when larger-than-life personalities are a rarity. His instantly recognizable baritone has been cutting through the airwaves and energizing concert hall speakers for well over a decade as he has established himself as a major force in contemporary country. Now, with the release of American Man, Greatest Hits Volume II, Trace Adkins collects the songs that have turned him from rising star to superstar.
Trace's body of work has been marked by both good-time anthems and soul-stirring slices of life. The centerpiece of American Man may well be "Honky-Tonk Badonkadonk," the hip-hop-influenced, across-the-board smash that carried the Louisiana-born singer to new levels of popularity following its 2005 release, but the song that sets both the CD and Trace's career into perspective is "Songs About Me," which makes clear the emotional realities behind the best of country music and so much of Trace's work. Perhaps nowhere is that better shown than in "Arlington," told from the perspective of a veteran whose heroism has earned him a spot in one of the nation's most hallowed resting places, or in "I Wanna Feel Something," which catalogues one man's battle with the deadening emotional effects of modern living.
On the flip side, Trace remains a master of light-hearted realism when it comes to relationships between the sexes. It was true with "Ladies Love Country Boys," which explores the rough-hewn appeal of the rural male demographic, and with "Swing," chronicling the hits and misses of flirtation. Then there are the songs of praise for attractive women like "Hot Mama," an ode to the wife who doesn't know her own sexiness, and "Chrome," about a take-charge lover of hot wheels. Rounding out the catalog of hits is "Rough & Ready," an in-your-face blue-collar manifesto that is both funny and dead-on.
The project also introduces four new songs adding yet another chapter to the Adkins discography. The project's first single, "I Got My Game On," is pure testosterone-fueled self-possession in a musical three-piece suit. "You're Gonna Miss This," another in a long line of Trace heart-tuggers about the emotional realities of family life, chronicles a young woman's desire to grow up and the friendly admonitions she gets to enjoy the moment, while "American Man" funnels praise toward the hard-working backbone of the country. The album closes with "I Came Here To Live," an overlooked jewel on Trace's 2006 Dangerous Man CD and a fitting close to an album that encompasses such a broad spectrum of life.
The project comes at a time when Trace is increasingly making his mark across the world of popular culture. Long known for his skills as a voiceover announcer both for documentaries and for TV commercials, and for his repartee on the nation's televised talk-show circuit, he has added acting to his resume and has become an author with the release of A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck. His accomplishments and his continuing rise as a public figure represent the culmination of a long and often arduous journey from Sarepta, Louisiana.
Trace sang in a gospel quartet, played football at Lousiana Tech, and worked as a pipefitter on an off-shore drilling rig before making a name for himself in the honky-tonks of Texas and Louisiana. He moved to Nashville in 1992 and worked construction while he sang at night and looked for his break. It came three years later when Scott Hendricks, then president of Capitol Records, spotted him in a working man's bar outside Nashville and signed him. Trace's one-of-a-kind voice and his knack for putting believability into songs dealing with love, loss, sex and blue-collar realities did the rest.