These days you never really know what a band is going to sound like when you hear them live, although you can usually bet they’re not going to sound exactly like the track you heard on your favorite bluegrass radio station. It’s just the way things are going these days in the bluegrass music world. So, it really makes me a little nervous when I buy tickets to see a band comprised of members that I haven’t heard—even though I’ve got the record by the same supposed group.
Friday night I did just that, and bought the t-shirt. I saw the brand-new Dave Adkins Band live at the world famous Station Inn in Nashville, TN for a concert celebrating the official release of Adkins’ new self-titled album from Mountain Fever Records. Several top bluegrass musicians, including Aaron Ramsey, Tim Crouch, Jeff Partin, and Tony Wray, lent their talents to the release, but Adkins has since formed a band and recreated that sound. The group on stage was comprised of Curtis “Bum” Bumgardner (banjo), Glen Pace Jr. (bass), Kayla Wells (fiddle), Jason Hall (guitar), and of course, Adkins (rhythm guitar and lead vocals). The set lists included brand new songs from the self-titled project, fan favorites from Adkins’ previous recordings, and a few standards like Honey You Don’t Know My Mind to round out the evening.
The atmosphere felt more like a singer-songwriter night than the usual bluegrass concert does, including heartfelt and humorous tales behind the songs. I learned all about Adkins’ first date with his wife, about his previous profession driving a rock truck, and so much more. As it turns out, one of my favorite songs on the record, A Whole Lot More To Tell, was inspired by a trip to the dollar store, a place which Adkins seems to frequent in his home town. It tells the story of a man who witnesses to people he meets while in the check-out line by asking fellow customers if they have heard various stories from the Bible, only to conclude with “if you don’t brother, I’ve got a whole lot more to tell.”
Other stand out tracks include the country-tinged Larry Cordle/Chris Stapleton tune Fool-o-sophy, which describes a man attempting to prove that a “jukebox, smoke, and whiskey will heal a broken soul,” and It’s Not Over (Till I Get Over You) written by Terry Foust, Ray Edwards, and Tom T. Hall, a George Jones-style tearjerker. It’s likely that casual bluegrass listeners and fans of ’90s country music will appreciate a cover of the 1995 John Michael Montgomery hit Sold (also known as The Grundy County Auction), and attempt their best auctioneer voice every time the chorus comes around. Unfortunately, some first show jitters may have limited Adkins’ own auctioneering at the concert, but the crowd was so enthused that it made little difference.
Working man’s trucking song Turn and Burn, penned by Adkins, Dawn Kenney, and David Morris, is likely to see a lot of airplay with its wide appeal and foot tapping groove. Folks who spend a lot of time on the road should appreciate lyrics like “My office has a gear shift, and a seat with a view…” The trio also collaborated on the dark, pensive Russell Fork River, a modern murder ballad with a twist inspired by the usually dammed-up river that flows near Adkins’ hometown. The current single, Change Her Mind, which tells the all too familiar story of a man trying to get his woman to stay around instead of leave, starts the album off on an enjoyable note, and sounds a bit more progressive than the rest of the album’s content. The music pulses with every beat throughout the verses and has a much more west-coast bluegrass feel than the music typical Kentucky boys produce.
I caught up with Adkins after the concerts this weekend, and he told me he was glad to be getting back out on the road with his new band members to promote his new album. “I’m excited to see what the future holds,” he said. “The response from this weekend’s shows are amazing and such a boost to have so much support.”
So, there’s this guy that has his own band. He used to be part of another band last year, but now is out on his own… sounds like a bluegrass story, right? Right, but seriously, you’re going to have a good time if you go out and hear this band live. Adkins is entertaining, and truly has one of the most powerful voices in bluegrass today. For more information on the Dave Adkins Band or to see where they’ll be performing next check out his website at www.daveadkinsmusic.com.
The new album is available now from several online music retailers.