If you’re not familiar with the name, Jake Worthington finished runner-up on The Voice in the states back in 2014, a product of Team Blake. We’ve followed Jake’s progress closely ever since; his self-titled EP in 2015 was one of our favourite releases of that year. You know exactly what you’re going to get from Jake; a proud Texan – he provides good, straight-down-the-middle traditional country which you probably won’t be hearing on mainstream country radio any time soon. His latest EP ‘Hell Of A Highway’ is just about as country as it gets; immerse yourself in it and let your mind drift away to a Texan honky tonk.
The opening track is the aptly-named ‘How Do You Honky Tonk’. Raw and unapologetically country, it’s an up-beat, feel-good toe-tapper exuding pride for Jake’s country roots. “somewhere there’s a jukebox playin’ a Chesnutt song”…”do it your way whether it’s right or wrong, tell me how do you honky tonk?”. It’s a big middle finger to mainstream Nashville, and it’s so refreshing to know that traditional country is still alive and kicking. Full of fiddles and pedal steel, I can imagine this one being a real anthem at Jake’s live shows, proving popular with the underground Texan country fans.
‘Big Time Lonesome’ follows in a similar melodic vein. A typical post-breakup expression of regret, juxtaposed with a up-beat dancehall tune – “more than a little bit blue, that’s the low-down on how I feel. Baby since I lost you…big time lonesome”. The production is just SO slick and the track feels like it could have been recorded at any point during the last 60 years. ‘Throwback’ is an understatement.
However, the real quality starts to appear from ‘A Lot Of Room To Talk’ onwards. This one slows the pace right down and really tugs on the heart strings. A tale of someone feeling the pain of a lost love, constantly being haunted by those “angry words” and “opportunities I’ve missed”. Intricately crafted and brilliantly written. King George could have recorded it in his heyday, it really is that good.
The title track ‘Hell Of A Highway’ has got to be the next single. It’s got that perfect blend of traditional country with the addictive hooks that may well appeal to the mainstream crowd, a style that the likes of William Michael Morgan and Jon Pardi have found success with. “So tonight I’m playing my guitar and I’m crying like a country song. I’m sitting here staring out the window, wondering how’d you ever get so gone? Must be one hell of a highway you’re on”. The melody wraps you up in its warmth; such an easy-on-the-ear, charming track…Jake Worthington at his very best.
‘Don’t Think Twice’ completes the EP, another instantly likeable tune that doesn’t stray far from the familiar path. This is more of a straight-up romance story than anything else on the EP – “Van Gough could paint a picture that lights up the sky but it ain’t nothing compared to when we’re dancing through the night”. You’ll find an incredibly infectious guitar riff here with a great sing-a-long chorus that wraps up the EP in style.
To date, like so many other hugely talented artists, Jake hasn’t been able to break through onto mainstream radio despite huge success in Texas. But his career is going from strength to strength – 50,000 monthly listeners on Spotify is pretty darn impressive. Well deserved, and this is an EP that deserves massive exposure.
Dan Wharton (@LifeInASong_Dan)