A former football player and oil rig worker, Adkins began his musical career in 1996 with the album Dreamin' Out Loud on Capitol Records. This album and its followups, Big Time and More..., were all modest successes, notching him several Top 10 hits on the country music charts. Among them were such iconic songs as "Every Light in the House", "(This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing", and "The Rest of Mine".
But it was 2001's Chrome and Comin' On Strong two years later that added a rock edge to his existing soulful baritone vocals, as exemplified in the tender ballad "I'm Tryin'", and the more sexual "Chrome" and "Hot Mama". 2005's Songs About Me produced his most iconic song to date, "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk". Two more big hits, "Ladies Love Country Boys" and "You're Gonna Miss This", followed in the later years, but the hit making cooled after that. He eventually left Capitol for Show Dog-Universal in 2010, netting his last major hit a year later with "Just Fishin'."
In addition to his musical career, Adkins appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2008. He also holds a small number of acting credits, including An American Carol, Moms' Night Out, and I Can Only Imagine.
Adkins' music was originally identified mainly as neotraditional country, but many of his songs feature heavy electric guitar and rock beats. He is also noted for his varied styles, with sensitive ballads and midtempos interspersed with silly novelty rock songs such as "Badonkadonk".
- Dreamin' Out Loud (1996)
- Big Time (1997)
- More... (1999)
- Chrome (2001)
- Greatest Hits Collection, Vol. 1 (2003)
- Comin' On Strong (2003)
- Songs About Me (2005)
- Dangerous Man (2006)
- American Man: Greatest Hits Volume II (2007)
- X (2008)
- Cowboy's Back in Town (2010)
- The Definitive Greatest Hits: 'Til the Last Shot's Fired (2010)
- Proud to Be Here (2011)
- Love Will... (2013)
- The King's Gift (2013)
- Something's Going On (2017)
- The Way I Wanna Go (2021)
- Age-Progression Song: "You're Gonna Miss This"
- Badass Baritone: The deep-voiced Adkins stands six-foot-six, had a pinky reattached after an accident, survived getting run over by an off-road vehicle, survived being shot in the heart and both lungs, and often sings very macho, masculine songs.
- Bow Chicka Wow Wow: Invoked by way of pun on "Brown Chicken Brown Cow", where the title animals are the only two witnesses to a sexual encounter in a barn.
- Bowdlerise: "Rough & Ready" changed two lines for the radio edit: "Got a 'What are you looking at, asshole' smirk" became "Got a 'what are you lookin' at, pretty boy' smirk", and "Work boots, one blue suit / Size too small, don't wear at all / Unless somebody kicks, gets hitched / That's a bitch, it makes me itch" became "...don't fit, it makes me itch".
- Christmas Songs:
- In 1998, he recorded "The Christmas Song" for a promotional CD sold at Dillard's department stores. This rendition charted that year from seasonal airplay.
- The King's Gift, released in 2013, features Adkins performing Christmas carols in a Celtic style.
- Chronological Album Title: X
- Dating What Daddy Hates: "Ladies Love Country Boys" is about a girl introducing her redneck boyfriend to her straight-laced suburbanite parents.
- Double Entendre: In "I Left Something Turned On at Home", the title line clearly does not refer to something such as the stove or heater, but rather to an aroused or "turned on" lover.
- Early-Bird Cameo: He can be seen in a band in one scene of the 1987 film Square Dance.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: His pre-Chrome albums have much tamer material: the production is lighter, his voice is higher (to the point that "Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone" even features him singing falsetto), and there's very little sexual or macho material.
- Feeling Their Age: The subject of "Watered Down" is a man who is feeling his age, admitting that he can't do as much of what he used to when he was younger. He compares it to still liking whiskey but having to drink it watered-down instead.
- Just the Way You Are: The underlying message of "Hot Mama", which has the narrator reassuring his wife that no matter how much she might stress about getting older, to him she's still as beautiful and sexy as she was the day they met.
- Love Will Lead You Back: The narrator of "Every Light in the House" attempts to invoke this by leaving on every light in the house to hope that she comes back.
- Lyrical Cold Open:
- "The Rest of Mine" starts cold with "There's no guarantee that we'll ever see tomorrow".
- "Swing" opens with Trace saying "Take me out to the ball game."
- "I Got My Game On" starts on a title-drop.
- New Sound Album: Chrome pushed him to a heavier sound that he's more or less had ever since.
- Rearrange the Song: The radio edit of "Chrome" scrubbed out the talkbox guitar.
- Shout-Out: "The Rest of Mine" was inspired by a line of dialogue from Phenomenon.
- Singer Name Drop: Trace name-drops session players Jonathan Yudkin and Gordon Mote before their respective solos on "Rough & Ready".
- Single Stanza Song: "The Rest of Mine", although the second half of the stanza is sung twice.
- Stuffy Old Songs About the Buttocks: "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk", obviously.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Occurs in "This Ain't No Love Song":This ain't no love song
I just felt getting my guitar on
And singing a tune
Singing about you, yeah
Feeling good and tapping my shoes
And all this stuff I'm making up
Well you probably won't be hearing it on the radio
But then you never know
So baby if you want, you can sing along
But this ain't no love song
- Totally Radical: "Where the Country Girls At" features him, Pitbull, and Luke Bryan dropping street slang (and names).
- Trophy Husband: "Marry for Money" tells of one who is willing to marry any woman as long as she is rich.
- Vocal Evolution: His voice got much deeper and richer starting with Chrome.