My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Single Review: Trace Adkins – ‘Watered Down’

The term “watered down” is usually used in a pejorative sense in the country music world. It’s generally used to refer to music that has been stripped of its country elements in favor of a more MOR sound that will appeal to a wider audience, but as the title of Trace Adkins’ new single, it seems to suggest a creative renaissance of sorts.

It’s been six years since Trace last had a single in the Top 10 and nine years since his last number one. During that time period country music saw the rise and (hopefully) fall of Bro-country and a lot of other changes that many of us were not happy about. Trace himself bears some responsibility for the genre’s wrong turn, given some of his own questionable musical choices in recent years. It’s nice to see that he is apparently trying to make amends for that with his latest effort. Written by Matt Jenkins, Trevor Rose and Shane McAnally, “Watered Down” is a ballad that finds Trace acknowledging middle age, without wistfulness, regrets or nostalgia. The production is contemporary — heavily dependent on keyboards and a subtle string section — but it is never heavy-handed. He’s well aware that he is no longer a young man, but he’s not quite ready to retire to a life of golf at The Villages just yet:

We still fly like gypsies
Just a little closer to the ground
And we still love our whiskey
But now it’s just a little watered down

Unless I’m reading too much into this, the song seems to be a metaphor for Trace’s career. It’s very possible that he’ll never again have a big radio hit, but he seems content to settle into a new role as one of country music’s elder statesmen. He’s not going to try to maintain the hectic pace of his younger years, but he’s still going to stick around and make music on his own terms. And if “Watered Down” is an indication of the path he’s planning to take from now on, I very much look forward to following him on his journey.

Grade: A

8 responses to “Single Review: Trace Adkins – ‘Watered Down’

  1. Ken March 31, 2017 at 9:41 am

    A song that deals with a very basic concept that was once a solid benchmark of the country format – adult reality. That approach has been virtually lost in the past 15-20 years as the country music industry shifted to mindless party themes and shallow topics that primarily appeal to under 30 listeners. I loved Trace’s voice from the first time that I heard him about 21 years ago and was very dismayed when he began to waste his talent on the type of silly songs that ultimately became the core focus of country music in the early 21st century. Two decades older now Trace seems to be changing his focus back to material that is more age appropriate that offers some real substance.

    The production is definitely more country sounding than most of the dreck on today’s country charts. 25 years ago a song like this would have been a top 10 contender at worst. Great to hear a talented artist find his way back to what he does best.

    I strongly agree with Razor’s A grade.

  2. Paul W Dennis March 31, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    It is nice to hear thoughtful lyrics. I’d prefer slightly more country instrumentation but overall very nice – B+

  3. Luckyoldsun April 1, 2017 at 1:05 am

    Agree that the phrase “watered down” has always been something of a pejorative. Last time I remember hearing the phrase in a song was in George Strait’s “Real Thing,” where it was definitely used pejoratively. In searching for the song, I was surprised that there does not seem to be a live version–I’d have thought it would have been a great concert song for George, especially in locations and venues where the references/name checks to Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee et al might draw an appreciative reaction

    I’ve never been a big Trace Adkins fan, but he sounds pretty good here.

  4. Luckyoldsun April 1, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Wow. That’s news to me. (YouTube also has an original recording by Taylor from 1973.) I didn’t know that this was an old song when Strait issued it in 2002. The specific lyrical reference to “a young Johnny Cash,” in fact, made it sound like something written in 2001-2002, when Cash was in that career resurgence as an old man. I also didn’t know that Jon Voight has a brother who’s a country artist. I wonder if they ever performed together.

    • Occasional Hope April 1, 2017 at 7:23 pm

      It was also recorded in the 70s by the underrated Stoney Edwards, and in the early 2000s, but before Strait, by the Texan artist Rodney Hayden.

  5. Pingback: Album Review: Trace Adkins – ‘Something’s Going On’ | My Kind of Country

  6. Pingback: Some hidden gems of 2017 | My Kind of Country

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: