By Greg Tutwiler
With a voice like Dave Adkins, you just can’t stay out of the game for long. In the roots/bluegrass/Americana world, there are some of the most pure vocalists I’ve ever heard, and for me, Dave is in the top of that group. His musical career lead him straight from high school to a two year stint playing bluegrass at Dolly Parton’s famed Dollywood six days a week. From there he found himself in Nashville as a country music singer trying to make it among a sea of country music singers. After several years on the road with no real major breakout, he settled into family life in Elkhorn City, Kentucky, driving a truck for a living, content to put the music career behind him, and be happy singing in the church choir.
“One Easter Sunday morning I was singing for the service,” Dave told me. “After the service an old music buddy of mine who had visited the church that morning came up and told me that he cried through the whole song. He asked me to get back into bluegrass music with him, but I turned him down at first.”
Dave’s friend was persistent, and Dave was steadfast for several weeks. “He came to me one more time and said, ‘I’m not going to bother you any more after this, but I’m going to ask you one more time …’ I don’t know why, but I said yes.”
One More Time
Dave consulted his wife, of course, and got the green light to give music business one more try. “I’m in my middle 30s, I thought. Nobody’s going to hear what I’m doing. I’m going to play a few fire departments and be done with it.”
That’s not exactly how it went down though. Shortly after that, Dave and his friend formed a band called Republik Steele and immediately got the attention of the bluegrass world with Dave’s song written to his wife, Katrina, called “Heart Strings.”
That band lasted for about four and half years before Dave released his first solo project in 2014 called Nothing To Lose. “I love being a song writer,” Dave told me. “So I wanted to include some of my songs on this CD too.” One of those, “Pike County Jail,” was in the number one spot on the bluegrass charts three times, and was on the charts eight consecutive months, and the sixth most played bluegrass song in the country for 2014, and the album itself was in several top ten lists. “I was just ecstatic,” he said.
Last year Dave collaborated with Edgar Loudermilk, formally with Russell Moore and IIIrd Time Out, to create Adkins and Loudermilk, a project that produced several top songs, and a top twenty CD for the year 2015. Not bad for a guy who expected to settle for a life of strictly hometown performances.
This past fall, Dave headed back to the studio for another self titled solo project on Mountain Fever Records, scheduled for a February 2016 release. Dave, along with his band, The Dave Adkins band, will begin touring this winter. The first single, “Change Her Mind” is as good as anything Dave has written to date. Quite possibly, this new CD is his best work, and certainly my favorite, especially his Chris Stapleton penned cut, “Fool-o-sophy.” If there was ever a voice that matched Stapleton’s pen, it’s Dave Adkins. Dave is at the top of his game.