Chris Stapleton’s sophomore release makes country great again

“From A Room: Volume 1’s” diverse style makes it more than just another country record.

Caleb Aguilera, Writer

Chris Stapleton is not your average country artist. Stapleton burst onto the scene with his wildly popular debut solo album “Traveller” in 2015. He made a name for himself through sweeping the Country Music Association Awards that year. He performed two songs with his good friend Justin Timberlake and it was a powerfully electric performance. Stapleton went on to win a CMA award for best album, best new artist and best male vocalist of the year in 2015. In 2016, he won a CMA award for music video of the year, best male vocalist of the year and a Grammy award for best country album and best solo performance.

a Southern-rock vibe

Two years have passed, and Stapleton released his follow-up album “From A Room: Volume 1” on May 5. Stapleton’s sophomore release will inevitably compare to his first album, but such comparisons may prove unfair because this is a different type of album. “Traveller” was more of a Southern-rock album with country overtones. “From A Room: Volume 1” goes in a different direction with a softer and less distorted sound. The first half of the nine-song record has a much lighter feel, often featuring more acoustic guitar and clean electric chords rather than forceful and dynamic guitar chords which were prevalent in “Traveller.” The only exception is “Second One To Know,” which is reminiscent of that Southern-rock vibe with a hint of blues.

The album offers a mixture of light country songs such as “Broken Halos” and “Up To No Good Livin’” and emotional acoustic songs such as “Last Thing I Need, First Thing This Morning” and “Either Way,” which throws back to Stapleton’s days with The Steeldrivers. These songs showcase the wide range of styles Stapleton is capable of playing. His work remains a far cry from the generic country song about drinking beer with a pretty girl in the back of a pickup truck that gives the genre a bad name. He can play that sort of radio-country, but his music is more emotional, introspective and versatile than that. He is capable of capturing emotional themes of sadness and loss, handling them with the care and sensitivity those topics require.

wide range of musical talent

“From A Room: Volume 1” exhibits Stapleton’s wide range of musical talent. The last four songs of the track display his lesser-known blues style. It steers slightly away from the country vibe and focuses more on soulful blues riffs. “I Was Wrong” also exemplifies that, featuring a blues riff that would make John Mayer jealous. Perhaps the most soulful and bluesiest song of the entire record is the final song, “Death Row.” This track Stevie Ray Vaughan-esque blues melodies as well as some rip-roaring vocals that make it one of the most memorable tracks of the album.

“From A Room: Volume 1” shows how Stapleton is not afraid to try new things and deviate from the norm. It is not the same as the admired “Traveller,” but then again, it should not be. One of Stapleton’s best qualities is that he is a country artist who does something different from everyone else. His dynamic and versatile style combined with his delightfully dynamic voice make him the country singer that even those who claim to dislike the genre can enjoy.

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