Editor's note: Invitation Only: Trace Adkins debuts Sunday (Sept. 25) at 11 p.m. ET/PT on CMT.
Fifteen years into his career, Trace Adkins has struck an interesting balance between sexy songs and thoughtful ballads. And if you catch him in concert -- or on CMT's new episode of Invitation Only -- you're sure to get your fix of both. Here are 10 prime hits that have kept him in the big time.
Like many mothers, I've helped my kids research Arlington National Cemetery for curriculum fairs, reports and field trips. I became very well-versed in 21-gun salutes, the wreath-laying and the intricate choreography of sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknowns. But until Trace Adkins released a song about Arlington and made a video showing him paying his respects around the cemetery, I'd never been so moved by the history of that peaceful property. Hearing this song makes me agree with Adkins: "And every time I hear 21 guns, I know they brought another hero home to us." God bless those heroes, all 300,000 of them. -- Alison Bonaguro
"Every Light in the House"
There are a few good ways to tell an ex that if she wants to come back, you'll be there. But his 1996 hit "Every Light in the House" would make me run back home in a heartbeat. He's offering to leave a light on for her in the grandest way: by leaving them all on so the backyard's as bright as the crack of dawn, the front walk looks like runway lights and it's kinda like noon in the dead of night. Just so he can show her how much he misses her. But toward the end, there's hope he might one day get stronger. "If I should ever start forgetting/I'll turn the lights off one by one." Until then, though, the electric company is going to get rich off his heartache. -- Alison Bonaguro
One of my pet peeves is when people say, "I hate country music"-- or really any genre of music, for that matter. I guarantee if you're open-minded enough to give various types of music a chance -- without characterizing a genre by one singer or a specific sound -- you can usually enjoy it. "Hillbilly Bone" always reminds me of that as Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins sing about showing a friend from New York City the honky-tonk scene. Together, the two convert a room full of stuffy socialites into fun-loving country fans in their hilarious video. And I can't possibly be the only one that finds enjoyment in repeatedly singing, "Bone-ba-bone-ba-bone-bone." -- Stephanie Pendergrass
"Honky Tonk Badonkadonk"
When this booty-shakin' song was relatively new, I shocked myself at a concert by somehow knowing every line. To this day, I don't know how that happened. (And for the record, I'd never slap my grandma.) Interesting fact: Jamey Johnson's royalties for co-writing this song helped him fund the recording of That Lonesome Song, which he released independently before it was picked up by a major label. Could two country songs be any more different? -- Craig Shelburne
The smell of fresh-cut grass always reminds me of my grandfather. On pretty spring days during my childhood, Pop Pop could be found on his riding lawnmower keeping his front yard immaculate. And every Thanksgiving weekend, I miss the presence of my great-grandmother as I remember her coming over to help my family decorate our Christmas tree in the '80s and '90s. It's funny how routine happenings we experienced as children turn out meaning so much to us as we grow up. "Just Fishin'" serves as a prime example as he shares the video spotlight with his daughter, Trinity. While the doting dad realizes how quickly time passes and that he and his little one are making memories they'll cherish for a lifetime, Trinity is just having a blast beside her dad. One day, though, she'll look back and understand how something as simple as fishing with her father serves as a mental keepsake she'll always treasure. -- Stephanie Pendergrass
"I Left Something Turned on at Home"
This is a fiery-hot passionate tune, but I will never hear it the same way after I recently noticed that my husband was not paying attention to a word I was saying. Annoyed at his lack of interest, I asked, "Can't you give me five minutes? I know this is boring to you but ... ." He cut me off to tell me he was worried about something: "I think I left something turned on at home." I couldn't help but laugh as this frisky 1997 hit started playing in my mind. I realize this would not be a funny story if he had indeed burned our home down, but all I could hear was Adkins singing, "It ain't the stove, it ain't the heater." -- Whitney Self
"Ladies Love Country Boys"
Strictly speaking, I'm not a genuine country boy. I grew up listening to country music, but I was raised in a middle class neighborhood in East Texas. I wish I could say it was like Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show, but it was really more like Arlen, Texas, the fictional hometown of Hank Hill on King of the Hill. However, a lot of my friends lived in the country. One, in particular, was named Billy. He wasn't the sharpest tool in the proverbial shed, and he certainly wasn't big on social graces, but he was a great guy and a true friend. After I moved away, I found out years later that he'd married one of the Kilgore Rangerettes, the beauties who make up the pep squad at Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas. Initially, I was astounded that the two cultures could mesh romantically, but the more I thought about it, I finally recognized that Billy had an incredible charm and charisma that could only come from his rural background. And that's what I think about when I hear Trace Adkins sing this song. I'm not saying it's a universal truth, but ladies really do love country boys. -- Calvin Gilbert
"Songs About Me"
If you've ever had to defend your love of country music to a friend who just doesn't get it, but found it hard to explain, look no further than Adkins' "Songs About Me." When somebody on a plane asks him why he's into all that twangy stuff, his answer couldn't be simpler. He sees a reflection of himself in each song, and it comes down to "lovin' and livin' and good-hearted women, family and God." And if somehow that doesn't do it, there are always "scars and cars and broken hearts." By making his case with an easy smile and this breezily persuasive track from 2005, he helped at least one more music fan see the light. Maybe it will work for your clearly uncivilized friend, too. -- Chris Parton
"(This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing"
He can dance! Thanks to the twangy licks at the beginning, this one's instantly recognizable. Released as his second single in 2007, this upbeat tune shot to No. 1. It was written by Tim Nichols and Mark D. Sanders, two of Nashville's most reliable songwriters. Good luck singing along with the tongue-twister in there: "It's physical, chemical, emotional devotion ..." -- Craig Shelburne
"You're Gonna Miss This"
"You're Gonna Miss This" remains probably my favorite Trace Adkins recording. It represents, at least for me, just what he can do with his expressive deep voice and the feelings he can evoke from a meaningful song. It was, appropriately, a No. 1 hit single for him in 2008 on the Billboard chart. I know he has had more true commercial success with novelty songs such as "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" and "Hillbilly Bone," but for me, his vocal talents are put to better use on a heartfelt song such as "Miss This" or "Arlington." It comes as no surprise that "Miss This" came from two of Nashville's best songwriters -- Ashley Gorley and Lee Thomas Miller. Gorley has penned such memorable tunes as "Then" for Brad Paisley, and Miller was a co-writer on a gem, "In Color," for Jamey Johnson. "You're Gonna Miss This" is deceptively simple. It's just a parent telling a child to not dismiss or treat lightly the joys of the fleeting days of youth. "You're gonna miss this/You're gonna want this back/You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast." -- Chet Flippo