Dusty Drake has an absolutely killer voice. His contribution to the Hank Williams, Jr. tribute earlier this year (a cover of “Heaven Can’t Be Found”) might be the best thing on that record and made you sit up and take notice. And if his first single, “One Last Time,” is a bit overblown, it’s redeemed by Drake’s emotive singing and by the genuinely moving twist the lyrics deliver at song’s end.
Those indicators made one look forward to an album-length effort from Drake, but the results on his self-titled debut are mixed. The songwriting is somewhat uneven; Drake had a hand in writing 6 of the album’s 11 songs, and they range from the distinctive deep country of “Smaller Pieces” and the fine storyline song “The Wish” to the formulaic sentiments of songs such as “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” and “Too Wet to Plow.” More troubling, the production just doesn’t do Drake any favors; too often it opts for a bombastic southern rock or arena country sound that leaves the record sounding like a thousand other generic mainstream Nashville releases. And Drake seems prone to mistake passion for singing at full throttle, which too often overwhelms the effect of the song he’s singing. All that said, there’s enough of the good stuff here to raise hopes for more consistent results from Drake the next time out.