The idea behind Trace Adkins' new album 'Love Will ...' makes so much sense you almost wonder why he hadn't done it sooner. This collection of love songs is as obvious as the tagless T-shirt, yet for years we went without both.

'Love Will ...' stops short of being able to melt wax on its own, but the album is full of surprises. The first track, 'When I Stop Loving You,' is a borderline country-rocker, something you don't expect to lead a romantic project. This story leads into 'So What if I Do,' a song that finds the singer working a new tone and pitch with ease and efficiency. The soulful ballad grooves along a thick guitar lick before introducing a sultry saxophone toward the end.

The best songs on 'Love Will ...' are throwbacks that a group like Alabama may have cut 25 years ago. There's none of the chest-thumping bravado that Adkins is famous for. Words like "grit" and "blue-collar" hardly describe tracks like 'Come See Me,' a signature song.

"Slow touch, slow kiss / I just wanna take my time and taste you on my lips," Adkins sings before he works a scale with effortless patience. There is quite a bit lip tasting, actually. The Exile cover (featuring Exile) is as sensuous as anything in Adkins' catalog.

"When I get home baby / I'm gonna light your fire," he sings on 'Kiss You All Over' before offering this lyric that's sure to send his female fans over the top: "Oh baby I wanna taste your lips, I wanna feed your fantasy."

Not every song sends one shopping for roses and expensive body oils, however. 'The Altar of Your Love' is a big, lumbering ballad that -- like the title track -- lacks creativity in delivery. 'Say No to a Woman' is as cheeky as Adkins gets on this project, but it lands between cute and milquetoast. The singer sounds less inspired by these two as well; they're not his best performances.

Most impressive is the variety of love songs. No two sound the same, and this is not an album of songs to turn on only when pouring two glasses of Cabernet, Sauvignon or Country Kwencher-flavored Boone's Farm (it's a travesty they don't make it any longer). 'If the Sun Comes Up' and 'Watch the World End (Feat. Colbie Calliat)' touch on the end of a great love and are among the best on the project.

Adkins' loyal fans -- especially female fans -- are the target audience for this album. One likely has to have an appreciation for the singer and '80s country music to appreciate his vibe, but that's no criticism.

4 Stars

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