SPARK - DRAKE WHITE
LCM ALBUM OF THE MONTH - JUNE 2017
Release Date: 19th August, 2016
Genre: Country Soul, Rock and Blues
Location: Hokes Bluff, Alabama. USA
Record Label: DOT Records (Big Machine)
Every so often one person comes along in Country music who has something very special. 2016 saw the rise of Chris Stapleton, along with Drake White and his great band 'The Big Fire'. His outstanding debut studio album 'Spark' tells the story of who Drake White is as a singer-songwriter, husband and native-Alabamian. Drake's life, including his wife Alex, his hometown church where his grandfather served as preacher, his dog Writer are all included in this rich mix of Country Rock, Soul, Blues and Pop. Drake White is already an accomplished songwriter with a rock-infused, organic country sound and signature footstomp. As a natural showman he continues to stun crowds with his incredible live show and soulful voice. Drake has toured with superstars including Willie Nelson, Zac Brown Band, Little Big Town, Eric Church and more. It is no wonder that the Alabama native was featured in Rolling Stone's '10 Country Artists You Need To Know' and Billboard's 'Hot New Country Artists to Watch'.
“Since we began this journey — working on the album — I knew I wanted the title to be Spark,” Drake says in a press release announcing the album. “The idea of starting a fire from a tiny spark has always been so intriguing to me. That’s the way I have always lived my life; starting with a small plan and then it becomes this dream I didn’t even know to dream.”
Freedom, integrity, joy, love and soul – these are the things that Drake White is about.
Recorded in Nashville, this new album contains 12 tracks, 11 of which Drake co-wrote. Ross Copperman and Jeremy Stover produced all tracks except for track 10, with assistance from White on tracks 3, 6, 7, and 8. Andrew Petroff and Adam Schwind produced track 10.
The album opens with audio of Drake's grandfather, a preacher, delivering part of a sermon and this pattern continues throughout the first 3-4 songs. The first track 'Heartbeat' is written by Drake, Ross Copperman and Jason Sellers. A slice of Alabama life and a deep south love story. It's in the 'heartbeat'. The sing-speak verses are complemented by a rousing chorus as the song grows. It's very radio friendly.
A banjo driven stomp 'Story' about the rich diversity of life and how we all may be leading our lives in different ways but share an ultimate goals and hopes. "Everybody got their good days, bad days, up and down. We are all on the same world spinning around...some got a little and some got a lot. Some of us are lost. Thank God some of us are not. But everybody got their moment in glory. Guess everybody's got their story." ‘Story’ finishes with some lovely scat vocals.
The tempo drops for the Country blues classic 'Makin' Me Look Good Again' showcasing Drake's excellent and rich vocal. It's a tender, piano-propelled ballad that's more Memphis than Nashville. A late night bar song, dripping in blues and whiskey. "It is my tribute to soul music," Drake says in a teaser for the video. "My wife is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. The concept of when she’s standing beside me I look a lot better than when she’s not standing beside me, is what this song was written off of." Drake wrote the track with Monty Criswell and Shane Minor.
My first introduction to Drake's music and one of my favourite tracks on the album is the very catchy and infectious 'It Feels Good'. This great toe-tapper and swampy bayou-burner takes us to a hot and steamy Alabama river bank with a sage advise. 'It feel good....it feel right......so we gonna lay back and let it ride'. It has elements of gospel and the feel of the song is one of redemption.
'Livin' The Dream' is the only one of the few songs on the album not written by Drake. A slightly more commercial, softer sounding song than most on the album.
'I Need Real' is a mid-tempo, guitar driven plea for sanity in a crazy world, to 'keep it real' and get back to your roots. The Zac Brown Band actually contribute backing vocals on ‘Back to Free’. The theme of freedom and of integrity continues. “Nobody’s talking but we’re all on the phone’” he complains whilst the ZBB contribute ‘Home Free’ style vocal harmonies. Drake White is an honest artist who wears his influences on his sleeve and the middle section clearly belongs to Zac Brown.
Next a beach song ‘Equator’ where we find Drake channelling his inner Jimmy Buffett. His his voice changes to suit the mood and style of the song. Now lighter in tone, this one is all horn section and jangly guitars. The sound and feel of salt, lime, sand, surf and flip-flops. 'Live Some' is a 'live for the moment' style song. “We don’t live forever… got to make a little hay whilst the sun shines.”
'Waitin' On The Whiskey To Work' finds Drake becoming an East Nashville troubadour. A delicate song about loneliness is made all the more heartbreaking by the underlying harmonica backing,. reminding me of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’ and Chris Stapleton's 'Whiskey and You' “I’m just waiting for the band to start to play a little tune for a busted up heart’.
‘Elvis’ sees Drake picking up the pace for the big finish. Imagine the Black Crows meeting the Rolling Stones. 70’s rock and roll with some great slide guitar. It even manages to sneak in some Coldplay-esque ‘Woh Ooo’s towards the end. A fun personal rock song, about patience and working towards your goals. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day and Elvis wasn’t born the king.”
'Take Me As I Am' moves from 70’s rock to 70’s Philly Soul. Nile Rodger’s style guitars begin as Drake adapts his vocals again. Big, gospel backing vocals and funky sounding guitars end the album in an upbeat, up-tempo soulful mood. 'This life is a crazy road.....take me as I am'