Trace Adkins helped keep country's traditionalist flame burning during the crossover-happy late '90s, mixing classic honky tonk with elements of gospel, blues, and rock & roll. Adkins was born in the small Louisiana town of Sarepta in 1962 and took up the guitar at an early age; he went on to study music at Louisiana Tech, where he also played football and worked on an offshore oil rig after graduating. His finger was severed in an accident while on the job, and once several years had passed, he returned to music with the gospel quartet the New Commitments. In the early '90s, he began to pursue a solo career, playing honky tonk bars and clubs as often as he could, and honing a powerful, wide-ranging baritone voice in the process. He spent several years on the circuit and finally moved to Nashville to try his luck in the industry; he was quickly signed to Capitol by Scott Hendricks, who had produced the likes of Brooks & Dunn, Faith Hill, and Alan Jackson.
Adkins issued his debut album, Dreamin' Out Loud, in 1996, and it established him as a rising star. The lead single, "Every Light in the House," went to number three; "I Left Something Turned on at Home" hit number two; and "(This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing" went all the way to number one. His 1997 follow-up album, Big Time, spawned another Top Five hit in "The Rest of Mine," and "Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone" just missed the Top Ten. However, it wasn't quite the commercial powerhouse of Dreamin' Out Loud; neither was its follow-up, 1999's More, which featured just one Top Ten single in the title track. Nonetheless, all three albums made the country Top Ten.
Released in 2001, Chrome brought Adkins into the Top Five of the country album charts for the first time, as the Top Ten lead single "I'm Tryin'" proved to be his biggest hit since "The Rest of Mine." In July of that year, Adkins was arrested for drunk driving and later pled guilty. The title track of Chrome belatedly climbed into the Top Ten in early 2003. Capitol released Greatest Hits Collection, Vol. 1 in July of 2003 and its companion DVD, Video Hits, in February 2004 with Adkins' fifth studio album, the December 2003 release Comin' on Strong, sandwiched in between. In 2005, Adkins had a major hit with "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" from his album Songs About Me. The album Dangerous Man was released a year later. Live in Concert appeared in 2007 as part of the Big Band Concert CD series. X (Ten) was issued in 2008. After the album was released, Adkins left Capitol and signed with Toby Keith's Show Dog imprint distributed by Universal. In May of 2010 he debuted his first single for the label, "This Ain't No Love Song." The album Cowboy's Back in Town was released in August of that year. Adkins saw some chart action from both the album and single; he supported them with an extended tour. While flying to a concert in Alaska on June 4, 2011, Adkins' home in Brentwood, Tennessee caught fire and burned to the ground. Though his wife, daughters, and a babysitter were at home during the catastrophe, no one was hurt. The title track of his 2011 album, Proud to Be Here, was written by Chris Wallin, Aaron Barker, and Ira Dean with Adkins in mind. The album was preceded by the single "Gone Fishin'," which peaked at six on the Billboard country charts. Proud to Be Here wound up debuting at three on the Billboard 2003 but only generated one other charting single, "Million Dollar View," which scraped the country charts at 38. Two years later, Adkins returned with Love Will..., an album that refashioned the singer as a romantic crooner. It was released in May of 2013, debuting at 14 on the Billboard Top 200. Despite this high initial position, the first single "Watch the World End" didn't become a hit and neither did the album itself. In September, Showdog and Adkins announced that they were parting ways. A month later, Adkins released the Christmas album The King's Gift on Caliburn Records. ~ Steve Huey