I get the feeling that Chris Stapleton's kind of like the Kendrick Lamar of country music today. He brings salvation to the genre through his sheer virtuosic talent and singular vision, but also through his humble honesty. He's clearly got no interest in playing Nashville's Music Row games, and is moving outside their boxes (this album is evidently the first volume of two to drop this year). I've seen this attitude in person: at the Americana Music Association awards last year, Stapleton took away "Artist of the Year," but opened up with a salty aside about how the Americana folks never gave him the time of day when he was singing bluegrass. I loved him for this, as it's true that bluegrass is a much neglected area of Americana these days. It's also a sign that Stapleton loves to confound genres. Most reviewers talking about this album keep referring to Stapleton as a "soul" singer, and I don't quite hear it. I think people just aren't used to hearing real grit in country singing, so it takes you out of the genre when you hear a voice that's powerful, but meaningful as well. There's lots that can be said about Stapleton's vocal talents, his sparse and powerful arrangements, or just his songwriting, which is granite-rock solid here. But really the best compliment is that his new album is so good, I'll bet you'll put it right back on after a first listen just to hear new layers to the music.

AuthorKith Folk