Nothing To Lose

Dave Adkins

Mountain Fever, 2014

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


Dave Adkins has been around bluegrass music for a little while, and is familiar to some fans from his previous effort with Dave Adkins and Republik Steele. His 2014 solo release, Nothing To Lose, is a precursor to him teaming up with Edgar Loudermilk for a new band. Nothing To Lose is really brilliant bluegrass. Adkins has a strong voice that could easily fit into blues or rock, and he brings that sound to the bluegrass genre well, much like the SteelDrivers does. This release, on Mountain Fever Records, is well produced, too. With Adkins' Republik Steele release, his bluesy vocals often didn't seem to sit well within the whole mix and the background vocals to his lead never seemed well matched. But on Nothing To Lose,my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 everything is seamless. Sssistance from Jason Davis on banjo and Wayne Benson on mandolin give him some quality backing.

Adkins’ soulful blues lead vocals are apparent from the very start. "Mistaken Heart" is a heartbreak tune that drives and hooks the listener into Dave's voice right away. "Put Some Grass In It" is an acknowledgment that Adkins' style of bluegrass may not be the way that old traditional artists of yesteryear played, but he loves it all the same. Ironically, "Silence Is Golden" is a tube worthy of the king of traditional bluegrass Jimmy Martin himself, as is the very well written "Tennessee Whiskey." 

Two "jailhouse" tracks stand out as well. "At Least It Wasn't Life" is a tongue-in-cheek barnburner that chain gang life is better than life in prison. "Pike County Jail" is a standout track, pushed as the lead radio single, about a moonshiner who is caught and put away in the Pike County jail (in good old eastern Kentucky). Speaking of moonshine, "Moonshine In The Moonlight" is a strong tune that sounds a little like "Old Henry Hill" from the Boxcars, but does well on its own as a mix of honest family values clashes with the moonshiner life by night. 

Along with the blues drive and the bluegrass barnburner, Adkins can slow it down well, too. "Pretty Little Liar" is slow and melodic and sounds a lot like a heartbreaking love song until it suddenly turns into a murder ballad. This tune is co-written with Loudermilk, who also sings and co-produces the album.  It's also pretty funny that this track immediately follows the album’s lone gospel tune "I Can't Even Walk." That's one of the endearing things about bluegrass – sacred songs can sit comfortably alongside secular tracks about whiskey, moonshine, prison and murder and it all feels right. 

Nothing To Lose is a release for which Adkins should be proud and fans will look forward to his next effort with a band. If future albums are as good as this, then he will be a very successful bluegrass star.

Rating: A-

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