From A Room Vol. 1
‘From A Room’s’ first volume is the perfect evolution of Chris Stapleton’s signature sound, he doesn’t just follow on from the ground he laid on ‘Traveller’ he significantly builds upon its foundations.
I Imagine I’m one of a select few British based music journalists who will actually take their time to review this album and for me that’s truly a privilege. This is because Chris Stapleton is yet to pierce the UK mainstream like he has over in the states, which really is a massive shame.
I first discovered Chris back in 2016 when Coachella released their line-up. It was to be my first time visiting the festival as well as the states and I really wanted to dive into the music that was on offer before I arrived. While I was composing my playlists, Chris Stapleton immediately stood out to me with tracks like ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ and ‘Parachute’ really grabbing my attention. Through them I discovered his award winning debut ‘Traveller’ which is now easily one of my favourite country albums.
Fast forward a few months to April and I’m at Coachella’s second weekend. It’s late on the Sunday evening and I’ve made the decision to go see Chris in the Gobi tent, It’s truly an intimate environment with a beautiful back drop of palm trees and the setting sun. What I found inside that tent threw all my stupid preconceptions of a ‘typical country’ crowd out the window. Instead I was greeted by men and women of all ages arm in arm whilst singing loud and proud along to Mr. Stapleton, it was easily the most emotion I had seen at a Coachella set over the past 2 weeks.
The set Stapleton performed will forever be in my memory because of it, It’s a rare time I’ve felt true emotional at a gig, seeing authentic country music being performed in it’s homeland was the perfect way to bring my adventure to a close and of all the set’s, it’s one of a few to truly stick in my mind,.
Apologies for the long introduction but I think It’s fair to say Mr. Stapleton had left quite an impression on me with his first album and subsequent live performance, So as you can imagine I was delighted to find out another album was on the horizon this year, it even turns out he’s taking a leave out of his friend Justin Timberlake’s book and releasing an album split into two volumes, spread over the single year.
From A Room’s first volume opens incredibly strong, ‘Broken Halos’ grabbed me immediately, you’ll notice throughout the album that a heavy focus is placed on Chris’s stellar and soulful voice and the first track is certainly no exception, the guitar melody is beautiful and is matched by heartbreaking lyrics which are sure too touch anyone who has experienced the sudden loss of a dear friend.
There’s only one cover on the album and that’s Willie Nelson’s ‘Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning’ the solemn ballad is a perfect fit for Chris’s gravely tones and he does the song justice. ‘Second One To Know’ see’s Chris rev up the engine for a stomping track, including a shredding guitar solo unlike anything we’re quite used to from Stapleton.
‘Up To No Good Livin’ is the perfect country song, it’s verses are sharp with incredible detail but it’s in the chorus where the song really shines as Morgan Stapleton, his talented wife joins in. Their voices bouncing off of each other as they sing about the trouble maker whose-bound to die young.
‘Either Way’ is a ballad which places it’s focus firmly on Chris and his vocal range, it’s emotionally deep, a tale of a marriage reaching it’s end with the verses feeling like whispers, especially compared to the chorus which see’s him really belting out his emotions. ‘I Was Wrong’ is bluesy in nature, a man who’s desperate to get his girl back, it see’s him really go for it, as he begs for forgiveness you can really feel it resonate through you.
‘Without Your Love’ unfortunately doesn’t do much to stand out, it’s a pleasant song but not as deeply affecting when placed next to the previous two, ‘Them Stems’ is one hell of a jam, it’s an upbeat jig dedicated to smoking weed, it feels slightly out of place material wise but it’s a darn good time none the less. the album closes on ‘Death Row’ which gets as bleak as the title suggests, a heartbreaking ballad of a man whose ready to face his end, it’s use of echoing Chris’s voice really make the track sound like he’s pleading from the inside of a cell, a clever twist indeed.
After Chris’s astounding debut album ‘Traveller’ I really wondered where he’d go from there, back in 2015 some described him as the saviour of old country, really putting an edge back into the genre, honestly I can’t disagree, he touches on sometimes really dark subjects, he’s honest and that really comes across in his material, ‘From A Room: Volume 1’ is a really solid record, one complaint is that it feels way too short, at just over 30 minutes it definitely feels like one album has been chopped in half but it’s done it’s job in leaving me yearning for that second volume to come around.
I'll leave you with a performance which is bound to get you hooked on his signature style, two true icons of their genre's together.