Drake White is one of those artists who hasn't found the express elevator to fame, but signs show he'll get there gradually nonetheless. Opening for Eric Church and Zac Brown has helped spread the word for the Northern Alabama native. His breezy "Living The Dream" single gives the city folk a nice survey of down-home life (the narrator has a spot picked for next year's deer on the wall).
The "Spark" record overall wins a TKO. There's more than enough solid material in the 12 songs to overlook a few missteps, along with the ever-possible disaster of production by committee. The opener "Heartbeat" has dramatic and appealing guitar scorch. And the country-skat style of Jason Mraz makes "Story" a definite winner. Sidelines into gospel or Delta howling don't beg for repeated listens - White's voice works best when the arrangement and volume use the excitement level more sparingly. "Elvis," for example, has plenty of drive. But White lets the guitars do the blasting and delivers a nice clean vocal.
There's a host of songwriters credited on every track, but one of them for "Back to Free" deserves special recognition for summing up the current human condition in the fewest words: "Nobody's talkin' but we're all on the phone." Other worthy lines abound on a record that often celebrates themes of authenticity and hard work. It's always welcome to have an artist that so clearly resists faking it or looking for shortcuts. With "Spark," Drake White shows he doesn't need elevators when he can just as well take the stairs.