In 2017, Birmingham-based Americana/indie-folk artist Wilder Adkins was invited to perform with Atlanta’s ATL Collective, who host a live tribute to a different classic album every month. This time it would be Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. As he prepared for the show, Adkins felt a spark of inspiration. The idea of playing these Bruce songs without documenting them—especially after adding his personal touch to the music—didn’t sit right with him. So he decided to hit the studio and record them properly for a midsummer single release.
The two songs—timeless Springsteen classics “Dancing In The Dark” and “I’m Goin’ Down”—take on a darker tone as Adkins shapes them in his own minor-key mold. Covers they may be, but the originality expressed within them is undeniable. Both are worthy additions to the catalogue of this rising singer-songwriter. Yes, in a conscious nod to The E Street Band, there’s still plenty of sax and keys to be heard, but the production here displays a pensive restraint that peels back the bombastic ‘80s-era originals and their massive gated drums. Allowing these songs so much room to breathe casts them in an entirely different light than shone on them back during The Boss’ arena heyday.
When it comes to his own material, Adkins’ songs glean as much from the earthy poetry of Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver as they do from the works of folk luminaries Richard Thompson and Bruce Cockburn. They are steeped in pastoral imagery, and frequently touch upon faith, doubt, hope and sorrow. Adkins is a true theosophical spirit, arrestingly taciturn but possessed of startlingly impressive guitar skills, a wit dry as October leaves and a tremulous, mesmerizing voice.
Glide is proud to premiere “Dancing In The Dark” (below) that flirts with glitchy Radiohead narratives, before Adkins offers his sincere vocals to complete the picture – giving this Springsteen classic its own personality. Adkins recalls Dawes with his stunning simplicity that adheres to the the less is more aesthetic, while his quiet strength vocals recall Ryan Adams and Jason Molina.