West Virginia South April - May 2019 - Page 44

Adkins says his family was supportive of his interest in songwriting and performing. His father, a certi- fied public accountant and automobile dealer who later served as Summersville's mayor, even made it into one of Adkins' most autobiographical songs. In "Burning the Tires Off," from the new album, Adkins sings about his first car, a jet-black 1969 Chevy C10 that at one point landed him in jail. "That was the hardest phone call / I ever had to make / I thank God for small towns / and my daddy’s last name," he in- tones in a warm, intimate drawl that makes you feel as though he's sharing his life story with you in person. "There are parts of reality in every song," Adkins says. "You can only write about what you know, and my life is what I know. You can write songs where you take bits and pieces of truth and build a character around them. But that particular song is 100 percent true." Adkins' first band was the Wild Rumpus, which also featured Lewisburg-based banjo player and guitarist Allan Sizemore and bassist Lewis. A self-described "Appalachian stompgrass" group, the Rumpus became something of an unexpected success, thanks to lively three-hour performances that combined elements of bluegrass and old-time music with youthful energy to keep the crowds dancing. Between 2008 and 2013, the Wild Rumpus recorded three well-received albums and built a sizable audience for their much-loved live shows — of which, at their busiest, they played as many as 125 per year. "We were just a bunch of raft guides sitting around playing after our trips," Adkins says of the band. "I enlisted some guys who bought into the fact that we were going to be a band that played original songs. The next thing you know, we were touring and playing constantly." The Wild Rumpus still comes together occasionally for special events. Last summer the band played at Charleston's riverside Live on the Levee concert series. And in the fall it performed at a benefit for Healing Appalachia, an organization that fights addiction in the greater Appalachian region. Mostly, though, Adkins is focusing on his solo career these days. A skilled woodworker, he also stays busy building custom furniture — and, less frequently, the handmade guitars and other stringed instruments he specialized in while operating his Fayetteville store, Leland Guitars, during the latter half of the 2000s. 44 ❖ SOUTH ❖ APRIL-MAY '19