Riding a lingering wave of goodwill and increased visibility from an appearance on Donald Trump's inaugural celebrity edition of The Apprentice, country singer Trace Adkins continues to climb toward the genre's A-list with X. Adkins is hamstrung by being best known for wretched novelty singles like "Chrome," "Ladies Love Country Boys" and the still-festering "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," which means that X includes a requisite handful of vile potential radio hits like "Sweet," which makes awkward use of dated Dude, Where's My Car? slang in its hook, and "Hillbilly Rich" and "Marry for Money," both of which adopt the materialism and sexism of commercial hip-hop and hard-rock production that recalls the heyday of Foghat. While those tracks are sure to extend Adkins's commercial hot streak due to country radio's ongoing crusade against good taste, what surprisingly elevates X above Adkins's previous albums like 2006's Dangerous Man is his song selection beyond the obvious singles. "Sometimes a Man Takes a Drink" is a hard-country shuffle that manages to bring new perspective to the genre's storied history of drinking songs, while "I Can't Outrun You" is easily the most emotionally complex ballad Adkins has ever recorded. The album's best cut is "Til the Last Shot's Fired," one of the few mainstream country offerings in recent memory that manages to convey a pro-military but anti-war stance with genuine grace. And it's to Adkins's credit that he continues to show real growth as a vocalist, using his distinctive baritone to give credible performances on songs that, more often than not, actually merit such thoughtfulness. If the fundamental conflict between his need to meet certain expectations and his apparent desire to record better material keeps the album from being a truly great artistic statement, X nonetheless finds Adkins proving that 12 years and 10 albums into a career is not too late to start taking meaningful, productive risks.