“Proud to Be Here”
Male country singers have a limited number of personas available to them, and Trace Adkins, whose 10th studio disc, “Proud to Be Here,” drops Tuesday, has chosen the lovable lug who is a big softy underneath.
Adkins, who was a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” back when that was a less embarrassing thing to be, is slightly less glowering than Toby Keith, more of a harmless lech (as anyone who ever heard his infamous hit “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” can testify) than, say, Keith Urban.
It seems that the more famous a country star becomes, the more he must refuse to assimilate, the more he has to assert that he hates city livin’ and misses the old pickup truck he used to have, back in the Good Old Days, when Life Was Simpler. “Proud to Be Here” works these tropes with a vengeance. The disc’s first few tracks are carefully calibrated testaments to hearth and home; the tear-jerking ballad “Just Fishin’ ” details a father/daughter fishing trip (“I say ‘Daddy loves you, baby’ one more time / She says ‘I know, I think I got a bite’ ”) with ruthless effectiveness.
“Proud” is solid and unassailable, none the worse for its stubborn refusal to budge from its talking points. As if in summation, its penultimate track, “Poor Folks,” is about fishing and pickup trucks and people who have everything because they have love. Anyone who hasn’t already given in to Adkins’s ham-handed charms will find that resistance is futile.
— Allison Stewart
Recommended Tracks: “Just Fishin,” “Poor Folks”
The Curse of Consistency has long haunted singer-songwriter Richard Buckner. Since his 1994 debut, “Bloomed,” he’s regularly released excellent albums that have gently toed the line between gritty alt-country and haunting experimental folk. They were always well received but with little fanfare — it was taken for granted that every few years he’d deliver another collection of expertly crafted songs about what happens on the other side of town. In the years leading up to “Our Blood,” some other curses afflicted Buckner — a film score fell through, recordings were lost (multiple times) and a headless corpse even showed up near Buckner’s home, earning him a talk with some authorities.
So his ninth album comes after an atypical five-year break, but Buckner is in no rush to make up for lost time. Like the rest of his work, it’s less an epiphany than a meditation, an album of moody, slow-burning songs that are better appreciated on 10th listen than first. He uses the same main ingredients as many other troubadours — acoustic guitar and a husky voice — but bolsters those basics with chilly electronics and some cinematic pedal steel. It makes the songs a bit slippery but easier to eventually get lost in.
Much of that is due to Buckner’s lyrics, which are more mystical than confessional. “The threads hang down / Pull one out the world falls away / Chased and caught / Begging to be found / Far from home / Bound to where we’ve been,” he sings on “Escape,” his once-sandpapery growl now considerably smoother but no less intense. The non-narrative style fits Buckner, who sings with the world-weariness of someone who has seen enough that he’s beyond simply recounting who and what. “Our Blood” isn’t a revelation, but if it were, it wouldn’t be a Richard Buckner album.
Buckner performs at Iota on Aug. 25.
— David Malitz
Recommended Tracks: “Escape,” “Witness,” “Traitor”
Mexican singer/songwriter/actress Ximena Sarinana is a childhood telenovela star turned Latin pop sensation turned crossover hopeful. Her self-titled sophomore disc (and first English-language release) is a twinkly electro folk-pop outing of carnivorous appetites.
It nibbles from a vast buffet of contemporary pop genres and, having consumed, moves on. It inhales production and songwriting talent both high-priced (TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, the Bird and the Bee’s Greg Kurstin) and random (members of Rancid and the Mars Volta).
It alternately evokes the Bird and the Bee’s Inara George (the airy, effortless opener “Different”), Sia (the chugging “Shine Down”) and any number of forgotten ’80s divas (”Bringing Us Down,” in which Sarinana tests the bottom limits of her considerable range).
Everything is thrown at “Ximena Sarinana,” every conceivable texture, instrument and bit of studio wizardry. It feels expensive. It’s no wonder that most of the disc’s lyrics suggest an identity crisis (“I don’t think you notice me / Don’t know who I really am,” Sarinana sings on the dance pop number “The Bid,” one of a very few standard issue tracks here).
Sarinana seems forthright and likable, sturdy. She resists any impulse toward twee, never gives any indication that she finds the disc’s glossy surfaces too slippery. You might not be able to tell whether Kurstin and Co. have provided her with a voice, or helped her find her own. But you’ll root for her just the same.
— Allison Stewart
Recommended Tracks: “Different,” “Tomorrow”