Boy this thing sure had me intrigued when I first saw the image of Trace Adkins looking all contrite, weathered, and wise in the promotional picture with his hat in his hand, like he was ready to ask for forgiveness for all the Honky Tonk Badonka Donkin’ of his earlier career, and the gratuitous puppet sex of his “Brown Chicken Brown Cow” effort. Perhaps he was ready to be washed in the blood of good ol’ true country music, and a song called “Jesus and Jones” could very well be that baptism he needed.
The word swirling around this new single was about how Trace had tapped into his own life and tragedies for inspiration. Remember, the last time we heard from the singer he was entering rehab after getting chippy on a cruise ship with his own impersonator, and finishing up his divorce. Perhaps Trace had realized some things in the time away, and having been jettisoned off of Toby Keith’s sinking Show Dog label and finding safe haven on the newly launched Broken Bow imprint Wheelhouse Records may have given Trace the fresh start he needed here in the new year. It’s easy to second guess all manner of career moves Trace has made, but even in his worst moments, it’s hard not to recognize the howitzer of a country bass voice he possess.
So as marketing and promotion will do, it sucked me in to the point where I was looking for an opportunity to bury a hatchet with the singer, praise him for his transformation, and let bygones be bygones in a new era where folks like Chris Stapleton are winning CMA’s, and traditional country is all of a sudden in resurgence mode.
And then I pressed play on “Jesus and Jones,” and was crestfallen within two seconds.
It’s not that the premise of “Jesus and Jones” is terrible as much as it’s been done ad nauseam. And even the variation of making it about trying to find equilibrium between partying Saturday night, and praising Sunday morning doesn’t offer enough originality to raise this effort to the redeemable level. “Jesus and Jones” isn’t an awful song to start with, but Trace figures out how to make it one with these ridiculous electronic wanks that try to prop up the incredibly weak versus, leading into a predictably rising chorus.
“Jesus and Jones” is a contrived, committee effort, and immediately reminded me of the structure of Carrie Underwood’s “Smoke Break” with just a few pieces shifted around. Not surprisingly, it’s written by Tyler Farr, with help from Jim McCormick and Casey Beathard. There’s no imagination, no soul here. It’s a formulaic way to drop corporate country buzzwords to appeal to low brow consumers. This thing couldn’t stand on it’s hind legs and make a fist to save it’s life.
Meanwhile the Auto-tune is slathered on the vocal signal gratuitously, like when you allow a six-year-old to spread the icing on their own birthday cake. And though lyrical videos aren’t normally something even worth criticizing, the raining dollars was especially douche-erific, and the fact that every time Adkins name dropped “Jones” it shows the image of someone behind bars was pretty unnerving. You know, George did a little bit more in his 81 years on this Earth than time, Mr. Adkins.
So it’s a new year, and time for new beginnings, fresh starts, and forgiving old adversaries. But unfortunately, it’s still the same old Trace.