by Howard Alexander –
There are great singers who never find a great song, and there are songs that become great because of the of the person singing them. On that rare occasion, you will find a great voice doing a great song. These are the artists who have albums you can listen to without hitting the fast forward or skip button. The artist you want to see live because their voice is as good in person as it is recorded. A song that moves you emotionally, or reminds you of another event in your life.
This is Chris Stapleton. I was home alone one night watching the country music awards, and I remember wondering who is this guy winning these awards over people I have heard of and why do I not know him if he is that good. Later on during the show, he performed with Justin Timberlake in what people were calling the performance of the night–even the performance of the year. I was blown away by the power and tone of his voice. He had an old school look and sound about him that country hasn’t seen in a long time. He wasn’t the same old bubblegum pop-country that has taken over country music radio. He was a refreshing change back to a country sound that I missed.It wasn’t pop country, it was blues country, with a hint of soulful rock.
If you could imagine a mix of Travis Tritt, mixed with a little Wayland Jennings, stirring in a little blues guitar over a steel guitar.
As I looked more into who Chris Stapleton was, I realized this guy had been around the industry for some time. He has written over 100 songs including numerous hits by artists like George Strait, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, and many more. He spent a couple years fronting the group, The Steel Drivers. They are more of a bluegrass band. His voice obviously has brought him to the forefront with his musical talents both in writing and in his soulful blues guitar sound.
After the CMA’s, I remember seeing people’s Facebook posts the next day explode with Chris Stapleton inquiries. I immediately went out and bought his new album, Traveller. It did not disappoint! It has gone on heavy rotation in my car since that day. Every song from beginning to end opened my eyes to this awesome voice and talent. This is what country music is about. This is what country music needs. This is real “from the heart” country music. His wife joins him on several tracks and has caught my attention as well. She adds a great compliment to his voice. If you buy one country album this year, this is the album to get. His biggest hit on the album so far “Tennessee Whiskey” is a cover done first by David Allan Cole, and then later by George Jones. One day after his performance on the CMA’s with Timberlake, the song went to number one on the hot country charts, and 23 on the Billboard 100, and the Chris Stapleton name exploded.
His latest song released on the album ( and probably my favorite) is “Fire Away”. He has no shortage of songs that reference whiskey, so I am thinking if whiskey is what gave him that voice, I may have to make this my new drink of choice. There are certainly more hits to come from this album. I also would not be surprised if his wife were to do her own album. His wife, Morgane Stapleton, is an amazing singer and songwriter as well.
If you don’t know about this guy, and you are a fan of a great voice, he is a must hear. I have always said that guys like Hank Williams, George Jones, Wayland Jennings, Conway Twitty, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash would cry if they could hear the direction a lot of artists have taken country music. I have a feeling these guys are smiling down on Mr. Stapleton and probably doing shots of whiskey celebrating country music’s return.