Release Date: May 4, 2015
Record label: Mercury Nashville
Mercy, this is good. Chris Stapleton, a Kentucky-born son of a coal miner, has spent the past couple of decades dividing his time between an excellent bluegrass band called the Steeldrivers and a healthy career writing songs for people like Adele, George Strait and Darius Rucker. In a genre full of great songwriters, Stapleton has stood apart. Like Guy Clark or John Hiatt, he is a master craftsman: Stapleton can turn a phrase on a dime, build a narrative out of a few evocative lines and bleed hot blood all over the page.
Like many country troubadours, Chris Stapleton cut his teeth as a songwriter in Nashville, churning out tunes that wound up hits in the hands of others. Kenny Chesney brought "Never Wanted Anything More" to number one and Darius Rucker had a hit with "Come Back Song," but those associations suggest Stapleton would toe a mainstream line when he recorded his 2015 debut, Traveller. This new release, however, suggests something rougher and rowdier -- an Eric Church without a metallic fixation or a Sturgill Simpson stripped of arty psychedelic affectations.
Country music was once gritty and real: stories of weary travelers down on their luck and singing about it. But something terrible happened. Like many genres before it, country music succumbed to pop radio, and the results got as bad as â€œCruise (Remix).â€ Then in early November, there was a change for the better. Justin Timberlake took the CMA stage with a long-bearded cowboy and everyone took note.