(5 / 5)
No wonder Chris Stapleton leads the country nominations for the 60th annual Grammy awards, with multiple nominations including ‘Best Country Album’ for “From A Room Vol 1”.
If you listen to his brand new album, released today, 1st December 2017, it is almost certain that no matter what happens at these next Grammy’s, he’ll surely be back there to pick up at least one gong for “From A Room Vol. 2”. He already has two Grammy’s under his belt. Best get a bigger trophy cabinet, Christopher!
It is quite simply, the very best country album of this year – in my personal Top five favourite albums of any genre for 2017. I am positive that it will hit the top of the country charts in the USA, and dent the upper reaches of the mainstream Billboard charts too. Bet ya.
Chris Stapleton has three current Grammy nominations including, ‘Best Country Solo Performance’ for ‘Either Way’, ‘Best Country Son’g’ for ‘Broken Halos’ and ‘Best Country Album’ for his critically acclaimed, “From A Room: Vol. 1”.
He is the most nominated country artist this year (alongside Little Big Town). The nominations follow Chris’ recent Country Music Association Awards wins, where he collected awards for ‘Male Vocalist Of The Year’ and ‘Album Of The Year’ for “From A Room: Volume 1”. The news also follows the recent announcement that Chris Stapleton will join legends The Eagles on their US tour next year.
The new album takes its name from Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A (the capital “A” in “From A Room”) where it was recorded over the last year, with Grammy award-winning producer Dave Cobb.
Along with Stapleton on vocals and guitar, and Cobb on acoustic guitar, the album features Chris’ wife Morgane Stapleton on harmony vocals, as well as longtime band-members J.T. Cure on bass and Derek Mixon on drums.
In addition to seven songs co-written by Stapleton, the album features versions of Kevin Welch’s “Millionaire” and the Homer Banks/Lester Snell-penned song made famous by Pops Staples, “Friendship”. Volume 2 follows the release of Volume 1, which debuted in May this year at #1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, #2 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and, with its RIAA Gold certification, remains the #1 best-selling country album of 2017.
His 2015 double-platinum solo debut, “Traveller”, is currently the #2 best-selling country album of the year. The release of “From A Room: Volume 1”, also debuted at #2 on The Official UK Americana Albums Chart. Stapleton making his mark in the UK, after popular demand saw the country star perform at high profile events such as the ‘Country To Country Festival’ at London’s 02 arena in March this year.
Quality not quantity here; just nine tracks. But boy, are they superbly crafted songs. The opener, “Millionaire,” written by Kevin Welch, is gorgeous. A slinky, mid-tempo and soulful affair. Chris’ vocal growls and slides silkily. His phrasing is lovely.
His wife Morgane Stapleton’s close harmony vocal blends seamlessly with Chris. George Harrison is channelled on Chris’ slide guitar teasers. A great song, it really is. Not sure if this is earmarked as a single, but for my ears; this has got number one in the US country charts written all over it; maybe crossover chart success too.
Shit kicking with a nailed on groove, “Hard Livin’ “, written by Chris and Kendell Marvel. Twangy, grunged-up guitars a plenty and a raspy vocal. Another really strong piece of songwriting and utterly faultless vocals.
“Scarecrow In The Garden,” a Stapleton, Brice Long and Matt Fleener song. Slows down the pace a tad, with a stripped back, pretty, acoustic guitar-orientated mid-tempo song that has a Bob Dylan flavour to it, maybe. A folk meets country vibe with an infectious core riff.
An absolute killer cut of the nine is “Nobody’s Lonely Tonight”. A beautiful Stapleton and Chris Henderson-penned ballad. It features a stunning, laid back Peter Green-style blues guitar solo, from Chris, who just has to be a best kept secret as a master guitar player out of Nashville these days. His vocal is bluesy and soul-drenched; his phrasing simply brilliant.
It’s got that Ray Charles thing about it. A tight fit for the likes of Al Green. I predict this song will earn Chris and Chris a good few $$$ in songwriting royalties from the numerous covers this song will attract, in the next few years. So, so, so good. Cannot wait to hear this one again and again and…..
“Trying To Untangle My Mind” is another strong cut, on a Southern country blues tip. A bit Credence Clearwater, The Band, Little Feat, Allman Brothers in style. The song written by Chris, Jaron Boyer and Kendell Marvel.
“A Simple Song” pares things down to the bone with the two voices; Chris and Morgane Stapleton and just acoustic guitar for company. A sweet song, in the country story telling tradition. A beautifully graceful approach. His vocal understated and uber-controlled.
Another Mike Henderson and Chris Stapleton co-write on “Midnight Train To Memphis”, which has an infectious Bo Diddley groove to it. Love it. Shivers down the spine time. Some sizzling guitar work. His vocal kicks off in first gear and gradually slides through the gear box from two, three, four and effortlessly up to fifth gear. A bluesy rocker in an early Stones vibe.
The penultimate cut, “Drunkard’s Prayer” has a Willie Nelson, or even Waylon and Merle thing about it. It’s lovely. That God-given gift of a voice soars and sends shivers up and down my back, yet again. Talk about being emotionally connected and lifting the words off the page…Just voice and acoustic guitar. No hiding place whatsoever and no room for anything less than perfect. A stunning song, penned by Chris with Jameson Clark.
The Homer Banks and Lester Snell song, “Friendship” closes proceedings on a high. A cool country blues, again with a bit of The Band seeping into it. Great vocals, great guitar and a sparkling song.
Nothing out of place anywhere on this record. The very best country album of the year for me. But country is not the sum of its parts by any means…File under soul, roots, folk, acoustic, rock, blues and country. Or just stick it under Chris Stapleton, whose name is fast becoming as much associated with something really special, as the Rolls Royce ‘silver lady’ emblem is for luxurious cars.
This bushy-bearded, hat wearing artist is a triple threat; a great singer, a great guitarist and a hit-making machine when it comes to songwriting. Co-writing six country US number ones, for artists including Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Luke Bryan and Darius Rucker.
Chris has penned more than 150 songs which have appeared on albums by artists including Adele, Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley; and he has co-written with stars such as Sheryl Crow and Peter Frampton.
Mystic Simon’s crystal ball tells me that this album will do even better than Volime 1. Just as well; as he’ll need the extra cash to help pay for lots of nappies! 39-year-old Christopher Alvin Stapleton and his wife Morgane announced in October 2017 that they are expecting twins – to add to the two children they already have.
There are of course, many heroes in sport, film, television and music. In the country music sphere, this man is well on the way to becoming a Superhero – the antidote to Nashville’s sometimes conveyor belt of mediocrity.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’