Country Jukebox Jury EPs: Mackenzie Porter and Jake Etheridge

Mackenzie Porter – Drinking Songs: The Collection

Mackenzie had put The One on a shelf for a year while her hit These Days climbed the charts. There is echo on her voice and very sparse production to match how she is ‘lost in a champagne recollection’ at the wedding reception of her ex. I love the line ‘I was the pearl before the diamond’, not putting herself down but recognising that she couldn’t seal the deal.

Mackenzie’s brother Kalan won Canadian Idol in 2004 and she herself won the 2011 Nashville North Star, juggling a singing career with her acting. Her self-titled album emerged back in 2014, whereupon she was signed by Big Loud.

Rather than release it on its own, The One comes packaged as one of seven tracks on Drinking Songs: The Collection. Although Joey Moi produces all the tracks, there isn’t too much of his power-rock guitars that he made famous with Jake Owen, Nickelback and Florida Georgia Line, and indeed the type of guitar sound which TR’s new song imitates.

These Days appears in two forms: the majestic original and the poppier remix with extra snaps and whistles on the track which was a Top 10 all-genre hit on Canadian radio. It’s such a stunning pop song, with enough melancholy to give it depth, that has helped me through 2020 and Mackenzie sells it very well. Drive Thru, written with Natalie Hemby, sees Mackenzie rejecting a booty call because ‘you can’t roll up whenever you like…whenever you got an appetite’. Two chords and the truth, with a playground nyah-nyah chanted chorus. It came out in 2018 so Mackenzie has been patiently building her career.

About You, released in early 2019, was written with fellow Big Loud artist Hardy, who is so hot right now. The song was a number one on Canadian Radio and contains the magical Hardy ingredients of ‘breaking up and waking up’ and moving on from an old flame. The chorus, which soars and swoops, is well executed and it proves that Hardy has a knack of writing songs to fit female voices too.

Seeing Other People is a gentle song written by, among others, Matt McGinn. It’s sung with a sweet vocal but it’s a bit frothy and produced, as Mackenzie sings of wanting to only see other people with her former beloved. I imagine the narrator is the same one from The One, so it appears he has seen other people after all. It’s a relatable lyric, all the same, and I like the four-bar ‘middle four’. Drinkin Songs is a poppy tune which I liked when it came out earlier this year, with a very melodic shape and a hookiness in its production. I hope there’s a full album coming soon but patience, as Mackenzie well knows, is essential in country music. 4/5 for the Drinkin Songs project.

Jake Etheridge – Because I’m High

In real life Mackenzie got married in July to singer Jake Etheridge. Jake joined the Common Linnets post-Eurovision and replaced original singer Waylon, then went on to play Sean on the TV show Nashville. Mr Mackenzie Porter’s EP has six songs which are in the Josh Rouse, Daniel Tashian or Ruston Kelly arena, just the type of classic songwriting I adore. Jake has self-released this and more than mere Nashville fans should give the EP a listen. There is some mild swearing throughout, so maybe those who are Maddie and Daphne’s age should wait a while.

In My Head is mellifluous, as is I Should Know, an apology in song where Jake admits to hating parties (me too). Forget My Name and Kayla’s Party include some gorgeous chords and delicious strings to create a sublime mood, while the EP’s title track notes that ‘memory is such a fickle bitch’. Rock and Roll, with its electric guitar solo and acoustic guitar chug, sees Jake’s voice reach higher volumes than the rest of the EP. It’s locked in a quiet groove but there is a uniformity to the set. 4/5

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