REVIEW: Drake White – ‘Spark’

14022375_1112988882117292_6739233998581768731_nDrake White is a name many will not have been familiar with until recently. His single ‘Livin’ The Dream’ is slowly but surely climbing the US country radio charts, following two previous singles ‘Simple Life’ and ‘It Feels Good’ which both had moderate success at the lower end of the top 40. Drake is an artist who has been honing his craft for a number of years, opening for the likes of Eric Church, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Big Town and most recently Zac Brown Band on their ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ and ‘Black Out The Sun’ tours. It seems that 2016 may well be remembered as his breakthrough year, and his new album ‘Spark’ might be the beginning of something very special as the title suggests.

The album kicks off with ‘Heartbeat’, a track that must be an absolute dream to perform live. Sublime production from Ross Copperman with a real thumping back beat that suddenly kicks into fifth gear for the chorus and gives the song such immense power. It’s also a taster of Drake’s gritty vocals; he sings every single line in a song like he’s lived it and the passion in his delivery is phenomenal. If there’s a way to start an album by making a real statement of intent, this is how you do it.

The tempo slows down for the next track ‘Story’ which has a raw country, almost ‘Wagon Wheel’ feel about it and could potentially be a huge hit on country radio. A rather jolly depiction of life written with a small-town mentality, with a mix of characters living such different lives with different aspirations but “all on the same world spinnin’ around”. A feel-good foot-tapper with great country values and instrumentation which will quickly become a fan favourite.

Then, we come to the overwhelming stand-out on the album. ‘Making Me Look Good Again’ was co-written with Monty Criswell and Shane Minor (who wrote ‘Live A Little’ for Kenny Chesney) and sees Drake almost slipping into Chris Stapleton mode. The track begins with a subtle piano backing before his powerhouse vocals take centre stage. The quality of both the song-writing and execution is breath-taking, and it might well be in our ‘top songs’ list at the end of the year. Drake’s performance of this track on the ‘Jam In The Van’ YouTube channel is well worth checking out – a showcase for his awesome talent.

The single ‘Livin’ The Dream’ is finally receiving the plaudits it deserves on mainstream US country radio. It’s one that will resonate with many, the working man’s anthem if you will. “Look at us with a picket fence, don’t got a lot of money but we’re makin’ a dent, old Ford truck with a dog in the back, now ain’t we livin’ the dream”. An optimistic outlook, attaching such value to the simplicity of life. This song did the rounds in Nashville, finding its way to artists including Dierks Bentley but nobody decided to cut it. Scott Borchetta at Big Machine decided it would be a good fit for Drake’s vocals…and the rest is history.

The list goes on in terms of album ‘highlights’. In truth, it’s impressive from start to finish. ‘Back To Free’ is tailor made for a live show, with a slightly heavier tone and an incredibly catchy chorus. Similar to the likes of ‘Smoke’ and ‘This Ain’t No Drunk Dial’ which have brought A Thousand Horses success over the past year or so. ‘Elvis’ is a very intricate, cleverly written account of the struggles life can present, possibly an autobiographical tale of Drake’s career to date. “Rome wasn’t built in no day and Elvis wasn’t born the king”.

We were very excited when we heard Drake’s live EP earlier this year and have been eagerly anticipating a full album. He hasn’t disappointed. Drake has his own distinctive style and sound that will hopefully set him apart from the rather repetitive ‘clique’ on US country radio right now. He is an artist destined for great things – he’s got the look, the voice, the stage presence and the passion. Watch out for Drake White.