- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — One thing can't be denied about Trace Adkins' new hit single, "I'm Tryin.'" It's different.

The song, which is moving up Billboard's country singles chart, has drum loops, sound effects and a melody that veers toward '60s psychedelic rock during the chorus.

At the center of all these bells and whistles is Mr. Adkins, singing about time-honored country music themes: the aftermath of divorce, the challenge of working life and the need to keep going after setbacks.

It's as though Johnny Cash took over halfway through a Shania Twain recording session.

The single was produced by Dann Huff, who's known for elaborate productions for acts like SHeDAISY, designed to attract a younger audience.

"(Huff) had some things that I was not used to hearing in any of my music," Mr. Adkins says. "You should have heard the tape they played me of the song. It sounded like The Beatles."

The surprise hit represents a comeback for Mr. Adkins, a 39-year-old former oil field worker from Louisiana who became popular in 1996 with such hits as "(This Ain't No) Thinkin' Thing."

Two albums since have sputtered, mostly owing to frequent management shake-ups at Capitol, his record label.

He was signed to Capitol by Scott Hendricks, who resigned after failing to get along with Capitol superstar Garth Brooks. Mr. Adkins felt ignored by Mr. Hendricks' replacement, Pat Quigley, who made Mr. Brooks his first priority.

Now Mike Dungan, a former Arista Nashville executive who played an early role in Mr. Adkins' career, is in charge, and Mr. Adkins believes he has the support he needs. "But all along I've been a cowboy that rides for the brand," Mr. Adkins says.

"Mike Dungan, he used to come out and hear me play when I was signed to a development deal on Arista. He's good people," he says.

The new musical style on Mr. Adkins' "Chrome" album, now in record stores, is the result of a meeting Mr. Adkins had with the new Capitol regime.

"I went in right off the bat and told them that decisions are going to be made in committee as to what we record," he says. "I wanted everybody to have input."

Although he writes songs, including his own hit "The Rest of Mine," Mr. Adkins has only one co-writing credit on "Chrome."

"I'm a much tougher judge of my own songs than someone else's," Mr. Adkins says. "If there's any doubt, I'll use something else. That comes from listening to too many bad albums by people who write all their own material."

He said a talented, knowledgeable and savvy producer "can take a song with a quality lyric that may not fit you exactly musically or melodically and make it fit you."

On "Chrome" which will likely be released as a single Mr. Adkins raps much of the lyric while Mr. Huff piles on the electronic gizmos.

Again, it's definitely different.

"I'm first and foremost interested in the lyrics on anything I record," he says. "It sounds like it sounds, but the No. 1 thing is the words.

"'Chrome' is about fast cars and motorcycles and big trucks and nasty girls. You've got to love that."

In the unlikely event that Mr. Adkins were to produce his own album, he says it would be mostly slow, morbid ballads.

"There would be a lot of steel guitar. It would be like a Vern Gosdin album."

Another musical pipe dream for the singer: a return to his gospel quartet roots.

"I've always thought the ultimate quartet for me would be Vince Gill on tenor, Ronnie Dunn (of Brooks & Dunn) singing the lead, Alan Jackson singing the baritone and me singing the bass," he says.

"Us four tall guys up there singing a quartet song. Man, that would be so cool, you know?"

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