The grassroots, warm, authentic, and grounded sounds of Chris Stapleton has resulted in him crafting out a timeless country sound. His voice pairs well with a fine bourbon indeed and gives us some sense of the slow life, it’s a nice ambience that settles the listener in for a quiet Friday night in. His new album, Higher is out November 10th, so here are his essential tracks to sit back, relax, and enjoy, before the album drops …
A fresh track off his inbound album Higher, this song has a pickup energy that doesn’t waver. Opening with an isolated drawing from the cymbals, some fingerpicking licks, and a building kickdrum pulse, it has got this rough and ready energy that hooks you from the start. The song approaches the pressures felt by an emerging love, and perhaps the sometimes over romanticised expectations that linger around this all-consuming experience. Chris uses a white horse as a symbol of status and poise, and presents the facts straight, “If that is the kind of love you wanna wait for / Hold on tight, girl, I ain’t there yet”. It’s straight to the point and a rocky number, it feels a little on edge just like the opening lyrics “This love, is getting kind of dangerous / Feels like a loaded gun.” This is definitely a strong single to get familiar with before the rest of the LP drops.
Tennessee Whiskey is the magnum opus of Stapleton’s growing cannon of country. The opening bars are reminiscent of the bygone golden western age, with a guitar that’s open wide in sound, but deeply echoing. It is very synonymous with the legacy sound of Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and is probably paying homage to the quality inspiration. The results, of course, are timeless. It really is smooth sounding, just as the lyrics tell, it holds some supple tones on that guitar, which have become iconic in Chris’ style. A master class in metaphor use, this song perfectly compares emotions with American whiskey and lineages of the bourbon kind. It’s homely in presentation, with clean production that lets all instruments hold their own and delivered at a pace that invites the listener to sink into a leather chair and just admire. More than anything, this song shows off Chris’ balanced vocals, clean yet gravelly enough to give it that organic country tone. This one is an absolute must.
Think I’m In Love With You
What can I say, this song flirts with a hybrid style of country that is just very pleasing to the ears. A jazzy bassline lays a foundation for cinematic embellishments from a string section, a bluesy backdrop organ and delicately syncopated licks from sultry guitar. If whiskey was the explicit metaphor in Chris’ chart topper, then this is the mulled wine equivalent. It’s incredibly well put together, with each nod to various genres given sufficient airtime to add appropriate dynamics. It is another single from the forthcoming album, which illustrates what we can look forward to with the new release.
Joy Of My Life
An acoustic ballad, this song resonates a hopeful, upbeat feel. The acoustic guitars are recorded closely and the brushes on the toms of the drumkit are delicate, giving the song an effervescent warm timbre. It’s a song of reverence using the simplest of narratives, an arrival home to a lover and reminiscing their life spent together. Lyrics like “I might not get to heaven / But I walked with the angels that day” almost make your eyes well up. A testament to the lyricist, John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, who wrote this song for Chris to perform. A classic to be, some would say.
You Should Probably Leave
The saying: it’s all torn and frayed comes to mind with this one, it’s a bit mysterious as to the narrator’s true feelings and intentions, but it’s insinuated that perhaps poor decisions could be made if the love interest doesn’t leave. This song is one of Chris’ most accessible, with its steadfast beat and respectable tempo. A very respectable traditional country romp, it’s a great one to have in your country playlist or to have close by when winding down for the evening.
‘Starting Over’ is a bright sounding number, which could go well with any summer road trip. A simple instrumentation structure makes the song an easy listen. The strumming acoustic knows its place and its simplicity is what makes this song so solid. With themes of abundance in life, it’s a reassuring listen that is bound to raise spirits.
‘Millionaire’ is a grounded song, and a well-balanced song, that features nice backing vocals from none other than Morgane Stapleton – Chris’ Wife. Morgane’s vocals always add value to Chris’ contrasting voice and puts a spotlight on his talent. Treble on the guitar is turned right up for this tune, and the small licks twinkle with such shine, you can’t possibly reject it. A song about the value of love far surpassing material wealth, it’s very genuine and that is what makes it so appealing. So, it’s no wonder it was nominated in the 61st Annual Grammy Awards for Best Country Solo Performance.
Off of Stapleton’s debut, ‘Parachute’, is a classic feet stomper with its backbone beat and rememberable chorus. Some welcome country tropes such as the banjo and tambourine, make this a well-rounded sounding song – completing the range from the tiniest sounds to the grumbly guitar lead. The highlight would have to be Chris’ vocals reaching his limit in numerous moments, with a subtle rasp creeping in to give it that edge and authenticity at what he sings.
I Bet You Think About Me (Feat. Chris Stapleton) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)
From Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version), this song from the vault features vocals from Chris Stapleton. He adds the iconic country twang that appropriately accompanies Swift’s return to her Nashville style roots. Given the song’s subject about jealously, a relationship ended, and the residual thoughts and feelings, the song is contrasted well with Chris’ performance to give a male perspective. Overall, a duet with Chris is always going to hit the spot, and this is no exception, especially with the talent of Taylor Swift leading the charge.
What Are You Listening To?
The breakout single from Stapleton back in 2013, and it shouldn’t be forgotten, because it is such a feel good. The shuffle beat from the drums and the soulful organ in the background draws a laidback vibe. The song is all about the joy in sharing the music we consume, something all enthusiasts can relate to, so it cannot be missed! Chris’ vocals once again, show off his tonality and range, establishing himself as a powerhouse in the country scene, which has led him to become a highly respected artist in the community.
It’s clear that Stapleton has an already well-established catalogue, and luckily for us, it will extend on November 10th with the release of Higher. We are looking forward to hearing what he has in store for us.