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Posted on Thu. May. 16, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT

Music reviews: Trace Adkins, George Strait sing of love on new albums

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Trace Adkins, “Love Will …”

Trace Adkins works with five different producers on his 11th album, suggesting the country music veteran and reality TV star is searching for an infusion of fresh energy.

“Love Will …” does find Adkins occasionally trying out new sounds. There's the soul-country vibe of “So What If I Do,” which features a saxophone to play up the pop-crossover possibilities. And there's a duet with pop singer Colbie Caillat on “Watch The World End,” a strange love song set during the apocalypse.

While the arrangements test new territory, the themes tend toward the middle-of-the-road romanticism he's stuck with for two decades. Eschewing any up-tempo rockers, the tall, muscular former oil rigger concentrates on romantic themes, some of which push at the steamier edges of conservative country music conventions — as on his cover of the Exile pop hit “Kiss You All Over.”

For such a roughneck guy, he excels at tender ballads, as on “Come See Me” and the spiritually oriented title song, which features the Harlem Gospel Choir. But there's nothing here likely to lift him to the upper tier of country stars — which seems like a missed opportunity, considering the high media profile his role on TV's “Celebrity Apprentice” has given him.

George Strait, “Love Is Everything”

George Strait is amid a two-year tour before retiring from the road, but new album “Love Is Everything” proves he still has plenty of great new country music in him.

As usual, he proves he can stay contemporary, nicely handling the modern romantic ballad “I Believe,” with its orchestrations and organ accents, and the tricky melody of “Give It All We Got Tonight,” his current hit.

For all his modern moves, it's on the more traditional cuts that Strait excels, directly contradicting all the current Music Row trends. The steel-guitar-drenched “Blue Melodies” and the delightfully fiddle-driven “I Thought I Heard My Heart Sing” are reminders of how outstanding Strait is at classic country.

The album's only misstep arrives with “Got A Car,” a first-person story of young love that would have been better left to a more age-appropriate vocalist.

For the most part, the best of “Love Is Everything” would have stood out on any of his albums in the last 32 years. Which means this veteran may hang up his traveling boots, but his consistency as a recording artist isn't slowing down


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