While veteran singer, songwriter and guitarist Dave Adkins might insist that we’re all crazy, as the title of his excellent new album for Mountain Fever Records suggests, he ought to give himself a personal pass so he’s not included in that summation. In fact, We’re All Crazy is a smart, compelling, and outstanding example of a sound that makes a solid impression even on the initial listen, and then resonates with a drive and dynamic that brings energy and emotion to full fruition.
Of course, none of this ought to come as any surprise to those that have followed Adkins over the course of a bountiful career. He began making music while still in elementary school, and by the time he was 17, he found himself employed as a musician at Dollywood. A year later, he was proclaimed a Kentucky Colonel – the highest honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and one which is given to individuals who have made noteworthy accomplishments and given outstanding service to the community, state, or nation.
For a time, Adkins ventured behind a different microphone, and became a successful local deejay. However in 2010, he returned to making music and formed a band, Dave Adkins & Republik Steele. Three years later, he earned a SPBGMA nomination as Male Vocalist of the Year in the Contemporary category. He also made his mark as a successful songwriter, and by the time he signed with Mountain Fever Records and released his first solo album, 2014’s Nothing To Lose, he had made a decisive impression within the bluegrass community. His original composition, Pike County Jail, earned the distinction of becoming the seventh most played song on the Bluegrass Today Top 30 Song list of 2014. The album reaped numerous other distinctions as well.
Several other outstanding efforts followed, but with this new effort, Adkins is clearly at a pinnacle of his career. Every song taps into a different emotion, from the revelry and rejoicing that marks the title track, plus Dixieland Delight (Alabama’s 1983 hit), Bluegrass State of Mind, and Headed for the Hills, to the solace and reflection that’s shared through the tender trappings of Best I’ve Never Been In and Friday Night Jesus. Likewise, the songs that find a middle ground — Cold Hearted Woman and Dear Departed in Particular — also make a distinct impression. That said, Adkins doesn’t manipulate the sentiment for any specific purpose, but rather, he comes across as consistently genuine instead. It’s hard to resist both the joy and desire that emanates from each of these offerings.
As always, Adkins has assembled an astute ensemble to help him convey the music made here. The players include Aaron Ramsey on guitar and harmony vocals, Jeff Partin on bass, dobro and harmony, Will Clark playing mandolin and singing harmony, and Jason Davis on banjo. They give the album a rich reserve of tones and textures that makes this music come alive with an eager exuberance and exhilaration.
Ultimately, We’re All Crazy isn’t the unhinged effort its title might imply. Rather, it’s a competent and cohesive set of songs that’s already a best bet to be included among the best bluegrass entries of the year. And be assured, that’s hardly any kind of a crazy calculation.