When: 8 p.m., tonight
Where: Chumash Casino, 3400 E. Highway 246, in Santa Ynez
Cost: $49 to $79
Tickets: 800-585-3737, www.chumashcasino.com
Trace Adkins, a country music veteran who has swerved into the television and film worlds, is one of those Nashville cats who first hit the scene strongly in the 1990s, when country music was more, well, country. Tonight, the now 66-year-old country star returns to the Chumash Casino, where he played in 2014, shortly after his album “Love Will…”
How do we know him? Foremostly, there is the jukebox factor of a long list of hits, starting with his first single, “There’s a Girl in Texas,” from his 1996 debut album “Dreamin’ Out Loud,” “(This Ain’t No) Thinking Thing,” and a hit list though the years including “Ladies Love Country Boys,” the cheeky, funk-infused 2005 hit “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” and from the 2006 album “Dangerous Man,” his biggest hit yet, “You’re Gonna Miss This.”
On screens large and small, the charismatic Mr. Adkins has appeared in various niches, in game show panelist mode on “Hollywood Squares” and “Pyramid,” and in acting roles in such films as “Deepwater Horizon,” “I Can Only Imagine,” and Moms’ Night Out.”
But it all started with a musical itch, and innate gift. Mr. Adkins’ biography is well-stocked with the stuff of country music details worthy of a song or three. Born in Sarepta, Louisiana, he was the son of a mill worker and the nephew of Christian musician James W. Carraway. He was a precociously talented gospel singer, wore his Future Farmers of American badge and studied at Louisiana Tech University before heeding his musical muse, naturally winding up in Nashville in the early ‘90s.
Oh, and around the time his music star began to rise, upon being signed by Arisa Records in 1994, he was shot by his ex-wife. A later marriage, with Rhonda and with three daughters in the family mix, nearly ended in divorce during a rough period when alcoholism was taking its toll on the singer’s life, just before his 2014 Chumash Casino show.
Mr. Adkins was already well-established as a country hit-maker and star by the time he was first invited to perform at Nashville’s supreme musical temple, the Grand Ole Opry, in 2003. As he recalled in an interview with NPR this year, “the first time you walk out on that stage, if you’re human, you’re petrified. And I was… Every Tuesday night, Friday night, Saturday night, it’s a family reunion backstage. And that’s the coolest part to me about the Opry… It’s a beautiful experience. I love it every time. I’ve never had a bad experience at the Opry. Ever.”
Mr. Adkins’ latest album is 2017’s “Something’s Going On,” a mash-up of old school country production and more modern, country-pop slickness and rock grit, the first single from which was “Jesus and Jones.” Thought not written by the singer, its tale of the perennial struggle between Christian values and the lure of honky tonking abandon–represented by country icon George Jones—fairly well reflects Mr. Adkins’ own story.
As he sings on the chorus, “I need to find a little middle ground/Between let her rip and settling down/But I go from dry to drowned, lost to found/Stone cold sober to just plain stoned/Trying to live like my heroes did/Is the hardest kind of livin’ there is/Been a tug of war since I was a kid between Jesus and Jones.”
In the ‘10s, the country star has moved past adversity into a deeper appreciation of his life and livelihood. Before his last Chumash Casino show, he offered a humble statement of gratitude: “I owe a debt of gratitude to everyone for the outpouring of encouragement and support over the past few months. It’s hard to put into words how much comfort you take from hearing ‘We’ve got your back.’”
And as he recently told NPR, with tongue in cheek and something resembling humility on the sleeve, his successful country music life “is nothing but a hobby that got horribly out of control… I’m one of those blessed people that…something that I love to do, now I get to make a living doing it.”