12 May 2018 (released)
04 May 2018
It's funny how rarely songs are written about where you are in the present moment. The songs about “I'm exactly where I want to be right now” are a tiny minority when but up against the “I wish I was there” column. It makes sense though, songs are by their very nature reflective. We all know that if everyone's having a great time at a party or you're having an intimate romantic moment, the worst thing you can do in that instant is bust out an acoustic guitar to sing about it. In a similar vein of thought, it's rare to have an artist wax poetic about a place where they're dwelling. You get caught up in the ugly, nitty-gritty. The cracks and scars are close up in hi-def. It's when you're away that the rose-coloured glasses take effect and you feel the love for home.
James Adkins latest record, Brokedown Free Man Blues has at its core a real affection for the places that he's chosen to call home throughout his travels. Growing up bouncing around different military bases around the world, Adkins studied music in Florida before taking up residence in Virginia, a place that clearly stole his heart for a time. Now residing in Northern Ohio, he has compiled a collection of songs that chronicle his growth, his many transitions, and the places and people that have captured his affection.
Nowhere is his love of a place more apparent than 'Oh Lord Virginia'. His love letter plays as a double entendre, both reading as a message to a far-off lover and an homage to the state he called home. Home-style banjo leads in joined by a welcoming mandolin. Adkins' voice has a strong country lean without cracking into the corny honk. An emotional fiddle solo ties it all together. The track is very much a spiritual successor to John Denver's classic ode to the Blue Ridge Mountain country, “Take Me Home, Country Roads'.
There are moments that border on pop-country but for the most part, Adkins treads the line, keeping a foot in bluegrass influenced Americana. The songs are well-written and the backing band adds their flavour with a masterful subtlety. If you like you're country more Virginia than Nashville or Dallas, this is for you.