Adkins & Loudermilk hit with a bang when they announced their partnership back in November of 2013, with reverberations sounding across bluegrass music. Edgar Loudermilk left his position on bass and harmony vocals with IIIrd Tyme Out, and Dave Adkins dissolved his own band to launch the venture with Edgar.
But as things were then positioned, both of them had new solo projects to promote before they could dedicate the time to a duo album, to the degree that now, almost 18 months after they started working together, their first record together has just been released.
The self-titled CD from Mountain Fever Records contains 12 tracks, with 9 being contributions from Dave and/or Edgar. Somewhat surprisingly given their stated intentions when the two joined up, only one is a song they wrote together, Where Do You Go When You Dream, a tasty mid-tempo number that Edgar sings.
For the most part, the lead vocal goes to whomever wrote each song, with Dave taking the three songs from outside. One of those is a soulful, somewhat slower-than-usual take on the Gospel classic, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot with a bluesy tinge. The similarity between Adkins’ voice and that of country star Travis Tritt is especially pronounced here, right down to the vibrato. He takes the same approach on Hoyt Axton’s Spain (originally listed as Never Been To Spain), but as a full-on blues showpiece complete with the requisite wail.
On Weeds, by David Morris and Chris Dockins, his vocal delivery is far more restrained, in keeping with the doleful nature of the subject matter. This song, another mid-tempo track, allows for Adkins to show his sincerity through moderation. You can expect to hear this evocative piece a good bit on the radio. It really sticks in your ear.
What is most enjoyable to me is the sound of Dave and Edgar when harmonizing. Their voices are distinctively different, with Adkins’ powerful baritone and Loudermilk’s more subtle tenor syncing perfectly on their duets, despite the wide variance in their tones.
The album takes full advantage of this by mixing the harmony vocals far apart in the stereo mix, making it readily apparent which voice is which. Adkins is by far the more profound stylist, with a voice as big as the western sky and a delivery that matches his burly frame. But since his first appearance as a member of Republic Steele, Dave has developed a fine control of the power at his disposal, turning the full barrage loose only rarely, to very positive effect.
Loudermilk is a fine singer, himself, executing his own songs admirably as you hear on the mournful Blacksmoke George, the IIIrd Tyme Outish Georgia Mountain Man, and Open Roads, a paean to the freedom to move on. But when Adkins comes in on the chorus, the richness of his voice calls for your attention immediately, whether he is adding a low harmony or taking the lead while Edgar jumps to tenor.
The accompanying musicians shine here as well, with special notice to Chris Wade on banjo who is becoming one of the more interesting young five stringers on the scene. Jeff Autry is uniformly tasteful on guitar, as you would expect, with fine contributions from Glen Crain on reso-guitar, and Jeff’s son Zack Autry on mandolin. Loudermilk provides the bass.
Adkins & Loudermilk is a strong statement from a newish band. Though all the members are experienced tour pros, every artist has to prove themselves again with any new endeavor, and these fellas really bring it.