I watch the CMA Awards Show religiously every year, always waiting in anticipation to see both the performances and who scores in each category. Who are the winners this year? Who would miss out? Back in 2015, we were all in for a surprise: Chris Stapleton.
He shone throughout the whole night, whether it was jamming out on the guitar with Justin Timberlake in an iconic duet or collecting his trophies on stage. That night, he took home “Male Vocalist of the Year,” “New Artist of the Year” and “Best Album of the Year,” categories unlikely to have been paired together. Yet he won every category and topped everyone with his album “Traveller.” It was remarkable what he accomplished in one night, and he certainly put himself on the country music radar.
Now, Stapleton has come out with a new album, From a Room: Volume 1, and there should be a follow up later this year with another album rightly dubbed “Volume 2.” This extra music makes up for the amount of songs on this current album. At only 9 tracks, it seems to be a light album; but often, the smallest packages have the largest surprises. After sneaking into limelight from the background of country, he’s delivered to listeners songs that are true to his soul and style. It appears he hasn’t been swayed by his sudden popularity and gone towards the “country pop” route that many seem to be following. Instead, he has continued to forge his own path with odes to Southern rock and creating sounds long gone from the radio.
Stapleton has brought back country that has sat too long in the foreground of popular country. Whenever I flicker between my multiple country stations, it seems that it’s always Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan. They’re all wonderful artists, but their bubblegum guitar notes and lyrics about pickup trucks and drinking are starting to become worn-out the more unimaginative they seem to be. The deep, melodic voice of Stapleton resonates in every song, giving it a personal feeling, as if he was only singing to you.
Extremely candid, “Broken Halos” opens everything up and is melancholy piece that contains a message of accepting that we can’t know why everything happens. He mentions “They’ve all gone wherever they go/Broken halos that used to shine” which seems to acknowledge the passing of loved ones. It’s an emotional piece that, mixed with Stapleton’s vocals, make for a song of such passion that I haven’t seen for a very long time. Every song has a deeper meaning on this album, and this seems to be at the very core of the composition. It makes for an album much more intriguing and worth a listen than many that have been released recently.
Making a guitar sing is a very difficult thing to do, but it seems nothing is impossible for this artist. “I Was Wrong” is a piece of genius, both in instrumental regards and vocals. Stapleton’s runs coincide beautifully with guitar that seems to have a call and response as it is shapes the introduction and glides along with a solo in the middle. This mixture creates the illusion of heartbreak and yearning right in front of our very eyes.
In “Up To No Good Livin’,” there seems to be a throwback to the old country of Johnny Cash and the days of prevalent Western music. There is an exploration of time old topics: breaking the law, love, and a whole lot of drinking. Every part of this song has a nostalgic feel, and the outlaw aspect is felt even in the title.
I’m not sure there isn’t a good song on this album. In fact, it’s very difficult to find many flaws in the handiwork of Chris Stapleton. As I mentioned earlier, it’s relatively short: but that surely doesn’t mean he wasn’t able to carefully and meticulously craft each song to perfection.