Trace Adkins – “I’m Tryin'”

Released: 7.10.01

Peak: #44

Even more than self-appointed good ol’ boogeyman Toby Keith, Trace Adkins could have embodied the muscle-head redneck linebacker of blue-state nightmares had he so chosen, and that this onetime oil rigger rarely played up that persona is, I suppose, to his credit. The broad-shouldered lunk has definitely mis-stepped more than once, though–I understand the rage against “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” though I think some should have been reserved for the failed pick-up lines of “Swing.” Personally, I dug from a distance how “Hot Mama” steamed up domesticity, then abandoned all hope around the time “Songs About Me” made the shift from singing about common people to singing about singing about common people.

But “I’m Tryin'” was the standard Trace could never again meet. No tears, no beers, just undiluted stoic misery showing up the easy sentimentality of not just pop country, but some of the classic stuff as well. The string quartet intro is genuinely pretty, and the interplay between dobro, violin, and electric guitar creates a tension that plays off his willfully stiff vocal. And if someone told Everlast provided the beat that locks into the acoustic guitar track, I’d believe ’em.

Lyrically, “I’m Tryin'” begins like a knee-jerk rant against a grasping ex-wife, but quickly broadens out to question the Amer-I-Can ideology of self-sufficiency itself. Trace doesn’t explicitly tell Daddy he was wrong to raise him on macho bumper-sticker philosophy, but he realizes its limits. Not that that helps him any: Adkins’ long-suffering working man is too proud to ask for help, or to imagine that a common effort might succeed where individual persistence fails.

Instead he falls back on “All I can do/ Is all I can do,” the time-honored belief in labor as an escape from doubt. But “I’m Tryin'” offered a nice counterpoint to the blithe “we all get a chance” of Brooks & Dunn’s “Only in America,” and it undercut the backwoods independence of Montgomery Gentry. And I give Adkins bonus points for not whining about his taxes.

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  • By Top Posts — on March 4, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    […] Trace Adkins – “I’m Tryin’” Released: 7.10.01 Peak: #44 Even more than self-appointed good ol’ boogeyman Toby Keith, Trace Adkins could have […] […]

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