Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Trace Adkins, The King's Gift, Christmas, carols and comfort

After falling in love with Trace Adkin's voice earlier this year, and really enjoying his show here in Citrus Heights, I was really looking forwards to his Christmas release, "The King's Gift". After all, it's not country, it's a set of some of my favourite Christmas carols, with a Celtic twist, and it's Trace's wonderful, deep, hearty voice, like black treacle in song.

("O come o come Emmanuel" is one of the most beautiful songs, religion aside, ever. It has a special place in my heart, entwined with memories of home and family and visits to Israel and to a family history that includes several generations of Emmanuel Bonnets, blacksmiths... and simply because I love the song, its melody, its tonal changes. It has to be something really, really special.)

I have to admit, on first listening, I was disappointed. I wanted, and expected, this non-country recording to absolutely blow me away on first hearing. It didn't. It was very nice. Really.... nice. But I don't do "nice". I do raw and soulful and heartfelt and bleak and beautiful and painful and cursed and reborn. I want emotion and passion. I want wild landscapes and wolves and a fire to keep them away.

ALISON TOON: Trace Adkins &emdash; Trace Adkins live 2013
Trace Adkins, Citrus Heights, Sunrise At Night concert series 2013
But this was nice. Melodic, gentle, comfortable, warm and snug like an inglenook fireplace on a snowy day. 

So I listened to The King's Gift once the day it was released, and then went back to Marillion and Gemini Syndrome and Five Finger Death Punch and well, it's not Christmas yet anyway, is it???

And then I see lots of reviews celebrating The King's Gift. Was I missing something? Time for another listen.

It's still nice. In fact, it's quite beautiful. Trace's voice melds with the Celtic sound. The Chieftans help out. It's very, very different to his usual country sound--and for his country-only fans, this is a huge step outside of the country-cowboy-comfort zone. It's classic holiday-season music, with a twist, and will no doubt be playing and playing in bookstores around the USA between now and January 1st (at least, it should be). The more I listened, the more I came to appreciate the gentle and unique subtleties of Trace's versions of these precious songs. And I'm convinced it will continue to grow on me, and that it will become one of my annual Christmas classics.

If you are lucky, you can see Trace on tour with his Christmas show: http://traceadkins.com/tour 

(But now that you've taken this step away from country,Trace, will you jump even further, and go heavy metal? Something that will really push from comfortable to absolutely amazing? I'd really like to hear that... you've played with Muppets after all... and of course,  I'm still waiting to see you play Reacher!)

For those of you interested in a version of O' Come O' Come Emmanuel that really did blow me away on first hearing, this is it: 

For more pictures from the summer Trace Adkins' show in Citrus Heights, CA, see http://alisontoon.com/traceadkins 

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