New Country artists are everywhere and it’s easier than ever to find new music to listen to without much effort. It’s hard to know who to invest your time in and who to press skip on so it’s always a welcome relief when the buzz around a new artist ensures you can’t escape them. That’s definitely the case for Drake White, an Alabama native who released his debut album 50 Years Too Late independently in 2011. Now White is signed to Dot/Big Machine and his major label debut Spark has arrived to much acclaim.
The soulful Country vocalist has been getting a lot of attention thanks to the impact of his singles It Feels Good and Livin’ the Dream but is he worthy of all the hype? A few listens through Spark suggests that he more than lives up to the talk surrounding him. Finding more in common with Chris Stapleton than Luke Bryan, White is all about the vocals and the storytelling. There isn’t any attempt here to blur Country with pop to cross into the mainstream and Spark could be an album that even Country traditionalists find much to enjoy about.
The album opens with the sound of the ocean before a steady beat kicks in and Heartbeat properly begins. The song finds White talking the verses (Sam Hunt isn’t the only artist that can pull that off) before jumping into a soaring chorus as he sings about love. It’s an upbeat start to the record that sets the feel-good tone that runs throughout the record.
Story harks back to Country tradition as White sings about a variety of people and reminds the listener that every single person has their own story to tell. He sings of the differences between us all before pointing out the similarities. It’s classic storytelling and White’s vocal is passionate and affecting. It Feels Good, the album’s first single, mixes a bit of blues into the instrumentation and it certainly lives up to its title. The song is rousing, infectious and wholly addictive.
Proving he’s no one-trick pony, White shows that he has the vocal chops to tackle a ballad on Makin’ Me Look Good Again, which has a gospel edge and a deep soulful groove. Elsewhere on the record the sing-a-long Live Some is a highlight, Waitin’ on the Whiskey to Work is a classic drinking your sorrows away moment, and album closer Take Me As I Am is a punchy end to a fantastic record.
Spark is a solid album from White that shows a lot of promise. It’s different to the music that’s currently charting in the Top 10 on Country radio and that will help him stand out. White has a huge soulful voice that could give Chris Stapleton for his money and I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next. Spark is a welcome introduction to an artist that needs and deserves a wider audience.
Track Listing: 1. Heartbeat 2. Story 3. Making’ Me Look Good Again 4. It Feels Good 5. Livin’ the Dream 6. I Need Real 7. Back to Free 8. Equator 9. Live Some 10. Waitin’ on the Whiskey to Work 11. Elvis 12. Take Me As I Am Record Label: Dot/Big Machine Release Date: 19th August 2016