A few weeks ago, some friends of mine were discussing country music. One of them complained about the lack of authenticity with the modern variation of the genre. Another shared his hatred for what most call bro-country. I really didn’t have too much to offer to the conversation because it’s a genre I seldom explore. Of course, I enjoy the occasional artist here and there (quite a few I’ve covered here) but it’s a style I would never call myself an expert in. Oddly enough, it was around this time, Soul Step Records announced the release of Roll The Dice, the debut album from Sterling Drake.
Growing up across the country, Sterling Drake is what some might call a traditional country artist.
Not in the way you would hear on FM radio, but traditional in every other sense of the word. His music is crafted with guitars, pedal steel, and hands-on instrumentation. His songs are self-written and speak from the heart. It’s a tradition of honesty and integrity. Even as a casual to the genre, something I see missing from most, if not all, artists being celebrated in mainstream country.
Roll The Dice may have a lean, seven-song tracklisting, but even with less than a half-hour, Sterling Drake manages to cover a lot of ground. The title track kicks things off with upbeat energy and follows it up with the instant classic duet “Come Stay With Me” (featuring wonderful vocals by Mary Meyers). The narrative gets pushed in singer/songwriter territory with the Willie Nelson-esque “Best Of Tennesse”. But it’s within the second half of the record, Sterling Drake’s artistry comes into its own.
The cinematic jazz of “Until I Forget” showcases an unexpected pop sensibility proving Sterling Drake isn’t a one-trick pony.
My personal favorite track on Roll The Dice just so happens to be the closer, “Honest Summers Wage”. It might be the only proper ballad, but it also unveils the most important element in Sterling Drake’s repertoire. His knack for simplicity. Within each track of honky tonks and dusty road-worn boots, each song represents who he is as an artist and a person. Even at its most stripped-down, Roll The Dice never exploits its classic vibes for the sake of gimmick. This is an artist sharing how he feels about the things he loves in the most beautiful way.
If I had heard this record before that conversation between friends about the country music genre, I would’ve had no problem recommending Sterling Drake. I can’t speak for Soul Step Records, but I’d like to think that’s the genesis of their Footprint series. Roll The Dice is a perfect example of that.
Roll The Dice is now available on vinyl by visiting Soul Step Records