Drake White’s debut project, Spark, is a giant, soulful, grit-filled melting pot. At various points throughout the record, he invokes the styles and sounds of Gavin DeGraw, Rob Thomas, Jason Mraz, Needtobreathe, Zac Brown Band, Rodney Atkins, and Florida Georgia Line, to name a few. If all of these artists were related and had just one Southern, Alabama-born cousin, Drake White would easily fill those shoes. Somehow, he blends all of these styles into something entirely his own, and successfully escapes the dreaded trap of sounding too much like his contemporaries.
Spark features gritty, growling vocals and fresh lyrical takes on classic ideas. The concepts are nothing new (except “Elvis,” which is arguably the most creative track) but what the songs lack in novelty they make up for in execution. White’s lyrics are straightforward, sprinkled with several winning plays-on-words. (A notable example is the catchy, optimistic “Livin’ the Dream,” where White sings “ain’t doin’ half bad for a half full glass.”)
Other standouts include “Makin’ Me Look Good Again,” a sultry slowdown that showcases White’s vocals and kicks off the meaty middle portion of the album. “I Need Real” and “Back to Free” are similar in their nostalgic nods to a simpler past and emphatic criticisms of the smartphone age (“nobody’s talking but we’re all on the phone“). “Equator” could well be White’s roughed-up version of one of tourmate Zac Brown’s beachy, tropical tunes. (He’s been opening for the group on their “Black Out the Sun Tour,” and this track would fit right into their setlist.)
The album finishes with “Elvis” and “Take Me as I Am,” two of White’s best tracks. The former is a snappy, stomping pep talk for anyone who needs a kick of motivation (“Rome wasn’t built in a day and Elvis wasn’t born the king“) and the latter is an anthemic I’ll-do-me declaration that calls to mind Gavin DeGraw’s hit “I Don’t Want to Be.” Spark is an honest, true-to-self debut. White sounds genuine and every message is heartfelt, even if we might have heard the messages before. The project proudly wears his stamp and emerges as an artistic blend of soul, gospel, rock, country, and pop.
Grab Spark on iTunes or listen below.