Dave Adkins has Nothing to Lose

Some bluegrass folks are just meant to sing together. Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent. Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley. And a seemingly endless string of brothers, from the Delmores to the Gibsons.

Add to that list Dave Adkins and Edgar Loudermilk. They team up repeatedly on Adkins’ terrific solo project, Nothing to Lose, released today by Mountain Fever Records, and the result is sublime. On song after song, their voices blend like they’ve been singing together for years, instead of just a matter of months.

Nothing to Lose was on my list of eagerly awaited projects for 2014. It was definitely worth the wait. Adkins has always had a big voice – too big, frankly, at times in the past. But now, with help from Loudermilk on harmonies and in the co-producer role, he has that powerful instrument under much better control than he did a year ago on his Rural Rhythm project with Republik Steele. You can hear nuance and finesse and, at times, subtlty on this one.

But it’s not just Adkins’ vocals and harmonic blending with Loudermilk that lift Nothing to Lose. There’s top-notch picking throughout from Jeff Autry on guitar, Wayne Benson on mandolin, Jason Davis on banjo, and Justen Haynes on fiddle, held together by Loudermilk’s just-right bass playing. There’s also some wonderful songwriting. All combine to make Adkins’ Mountain Fever debut memorable.

I’m fond of a number of the 12 songs here, but three of them clearly stand out to me. (This is a very subjective statement, of course. Your mileage may vary).

First is an uptempo burner from Nancy Cardwell and Becky Buller, Tennessee Twister, in which a woman’s fleeting love is likened to a tornado. She blew through the poor singer’s life, did some damage and “now she’s gone, long gone.”

The second is an Adkins and Loudermilk co-write, Pretty Little Liar. It’s a familiar story of the other woman, told with a surprising – and deadly – twist, all set to the best melody on the project, one that has been stuck in my head for weeks.

The third song is the outlier in this collection of songs about bad boys, scheming women, and smooth whiskey. It’s a tender gospel song, I Can’t Even Walk, written by Colbert and Joyce Croft. Adkins is at his best here, backed by Benson’s tender mandolin. Adkins sings “Down on my knees is where I learned to stand, and I can’t even walk without you holding my hand” with such conviction that no one dare doubt him.

There’s lots more to like here, including something of an inside joke for anyone who has ever heard Adkins perform live or keeps tabs on him through Facebook. His oft-repeated catchphrase is “put some grass in it.” For this record, he transformed that phrase into a song with the same title, singing, “I may never be in the Hall of Fame like Lester and Earl, but give us a stage and a hillbilly crowd, we’ll put some grass in your world.”

It seems like Adkins and Loudermilk will be putting grass in the worlds of a lot of folks this year. They both have solo releases on Mountain Fever, they’re touring as a new band, Adkins & Loudermilk, and they’re gathering material for a joint project that they’ll get to work on soon. That’s another one I can’t wait to hear.

Share this:

About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.