Drake Milligan - Jukebox Songs

BMG/Stoney Creek


Anyone who fears good ol’ honky-tonk music’s demise would do well to keep their eyes on Drake Milligan—with neo-traditionalists like him carrying the torch and moving the genre into the 21st century, honky-tonkin’ will be just fine. With his youthful, barroom-influenced angle on classic country, he has rapidly become known to showcase music that resists Music Row’s standard-issue rock-pop gloss.

This latest stopgap 4-track EP is a steel guitar, fiddle-driven, guitar-based record that will drop y’all right back into that mid-1990s Jangletopia. A carefully crafted jukebox set informed heavily by that decade’s die-hard country crooners like Chesnutt, Ball, Lawrence, Jackson, and others that filled American country airwaves around the time he was born and raised in Arlington, Texas. And now Drake Milligan firmly belongs in that pantheon. What shines through this gorgeous collection of tunes is the ease and simplicity of it all ... it’s a collection of well-structured songs that could have been written any time between 1963 and yesterday. Easy-going and twangy, it swings between tender ballads and two-stepping dancers, all with Drake’s rich and expressive baritone voice at the centre. The electrifying catchiness of the music makes it easy to picture him and his band on a small stage in front of a sawdust floor in a smoky bar somewhere in small-town Texas. The only set-back, with such a brief playing time, it’s like arriving at the bar just as they call last orders, with the band cooking, evoking Bob Wills’ Stay All Night, Stay A Little Longer

If like me you enjoyed David Ball’s effusive brand of honky-tonkin’ then you should really like the first single, I Got A Problem. Co-written by the ever-dependable Jessi Alexander, a piano intro paves the way for a rhythmic danceable beat as Drake injects plenty of twang into his smooth baritone that’s nicely done from a vibe that's been too long missing from mainstream country. The shuffling What I Couldn’t Forget is a fresh romantic two-stepper in which a fiddle dances around the twangy guitars to insert a skip into the tune that is quite irresistible. He steps out down heartbreak avenue with Don’t Leave Me Loving You, a bittersweet ending in which the full depth of his vocal quality comes to the fore as aching steel guitar adds to the pathos. He closes this short set with Jukebox Songs And Barstool Beers, another exuberant two-stepper that takes you straight onto a packed dancefloorThe song bursts into colour with the insistent heights of the chorus, as electric guitar adds some western overtones, while atmospheric pedal steel and fiddle all complement one another without overcrowding. Drake Milligan has crafted a lively homage to the delights of good ol’ country that is perfect for late nights at the local honky-tonk or dancehall. This neo-traditionalist contemporises a golden era of country music’s rich heritage with nary a whit of self-consciousness.


February 2024