Chris Stapleton is a five time Grammy winner, ten time CMA award and seven time ACM award winner. So to say that a new album from him is a Country music event is an understatement. In fact, such is the respect that this Kentucky born artist is held in across the board, this is quite simply a music event.
The album was completed in late February, just before lockdown began, and has fourteen tracks. Eleven of the tracks are penned by Stapleton with old and new collaborators, whilst three are covers. But, whoever wrote them, they all find Stapleton pushing at the parameters of his success. The singers ability to do this is bolstered by his ability to write music in so many different ways. A quick google search would be enough to illustrate how many career changing songs have been written by the bearded Country music superstar.
Now with all that experience in the bank, Chris Stapleton has delivered a superb album that refuses to be defined as simply another Country album. The album has some of the singer’s hardest rock sitting comfortably next to political comment like ‘Watch You Burn’, R & B ballad ‘ Cold’ and tender memorial ‘Maggie’s Song’. It’s a record that will only add to the belief that Chris Stapleton is the most real of artists. An artist that has made it cool to be a bearded everyman. A standard bearer for the young male artists following in his impressive wake, Stapleton was nominated for the sixth time as male vocalist at this weeks CMA awards. It’s almost more of a win for him that Luke Combs won, an artist that surely couldn’t exist without Chris Stapleton’s maverick trailblazing before.
This new album brilliantly shows Stapleton’s vocal ability. The fact that he can sing Country is no surprise, given his Southern rock and bluegrass origins, but it’s his teenage singalongs to Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey that have injected the soul in his distinctive vocals and made his duets with Justin Timberlake, P!nk, Ed Sheeran, and Bruno Mars feel more like a natural growth than stepping outside a comfort zone.
What this record does is pull all of the strings of the proceeding years together into a fully coherent whole. In ‘Watch You Burn’ it probably has Stapleton’s angriest song to date, a raw address to the perpetrator of the horrific mass shooting that claimed the lives of 60 people at a Las Vegas country music festival in 2017. But then this sits well with tracks like ‘Arkansas’, written about a road trip with his bass player through the Ozark mountains in a green Porsche 911 given as a birthday present from his wife Morgane, whose beautiful vocals are featured throughout the release.
The album closes with ‘Nashville, TN’, a song written about moving to the country to escape the prying eyes of tourists after his 2015 duet with Timberlake played live at the CMA awards made him a star name. It’s probably an accident that the album begins with ‘Starting Over’ and ends with ‘Nashville, TN’ but it feels like a definite direction after the soul searching of the albums journey.
With every release, Chris Stapleton proves his brilliance. This album is no exception and I implore you to give it a listen, whatever music you usually favour. You will not be disappointed.