On the riveting “Without Your Love,” Grammy-winner Chris Stapleton refers to the status of a relationship with the lyric “Time Keeps Raising The Stakes.” With the success of 2015’s Traveller, the singer might very well be feeling that way as he releases the follow-up to that double platinum debut album. It would only be understandable, after all.
But, if he is…..he doesn’t show it here.
Track for track, From A Room, Volume 1 offers much the same vein of music as Traveller. If there are any differences, it could be that this album is even more emotionally sparse and less produced as the first album. It’s Stapleton’s voice – that magical instrument that has given hope to fans of a more organic style of Country and Americana – that takes center stage, and that’s as it should be. You’re not going to hear a lot of bells and whistles on this album. But what you will hear is an album that is very much deserving of the attention that it’s going to get, (because, you know, it’s a Chris Stapleton record, right?).
His power as a vocalist can be felt immediately on the set’s opener, “Broken Halos.” He holds nothing back on the cut, and sets the tone for the rest of the record. Just like the opener, the singer delivers several cuts that would be just as home on Highway 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi as it would be in Nashville. Proof of that comes on “Second One To Know,” which he premiered on the ACM Awards last month. These are through-the-roof vocal performances that owe as much to his Blues roots as Country.
Somewhere in the middle is his take on Willie Nelson’s “The Last Thing I Needed The First Thing This Morning.” Whether it would be Tootsie’s in Music City or Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero, the performance would be equally fitting. He also hits the right tones on the chilling “Death Row,” which closes the album. Though it is the track on the set that is the less bluesy, “Them Stems” will garner much attention for it’s humorous approach to man running out of his stash. A crowd favorite to be, I am sure!
In between, listeners will find some other tracks that are more understated in their presentation – at least at first. “I Was Wrong” features some stirring guitar work in addition to his sterling vocal work, and on “Without Your Love,” he allows the song to simmer before bringing to an emotional boil. The same could be said for the breathtaking “Either Way,” which he co-wrote originally for Lee Ann Womack. It starts slow, and builds up to a chorus performance that stands as one of the best of his career. But, when you’re Chris Stapleton, laying it on the emotional and vocal line comes naturally!
From A Room: Volume 1 is available now.