“From a Room: Volume 1”
THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE The classic country star delivers a more personal follow-up to his breakout “Traveller”
With the stunning success of his solo debut, “Traveller,” Chris Stapleton proved that talent and authenticity can still top the charts, as well as grab attention in the music industry.
His follow-up, “From a Room: Volume 1” (Mercury Nashville), shows that he is ready to hold onto that attention on his own terms. Aside from a wrenching version of the Willie Nelson 1982 hit “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning,” Stapleton co-wrote all these songs before the success of “Traveller.” In most cases, that makes them even grittier and more straightforward than his songs from that album — and they cover a great deal of ground in only nine tracks. (A second volume of songs will be released later this year.)
In a way, “Broken Halos” begins the journey where “Traveller” left off, with Stapleton’s powerful voice showing how he deals with loss. The gorgeous harmonies he sings with his wife, Morgane, make lines like “They’ve all gone wherever they go, broken halos that used to shine” all the more poignant.
But from there, Stapleton goes off in a variety of directions. “Second One to Know” heads off to the land of Southern-fried rock, strutting around with Allman Brothers’ guitar heroics. On “Them Stems,” he laments the exit of his ex, as well as his weed dealer, over a blues-rock creation that is part jam band and part Rolling Stones. And on “Either Way,” first recorded by Lee Ann Womack, Stapleton passionately howls over the simplest of guitar riffs about reaching a dead end in a relationship. “Baby you can go or you can stay,” he rails. “I won’t love you either way.”
“From a Room” isn’t quite the bold, all-encompassing statement that “Traveller” was, but Stapleton’s unpolished, heart-on-his-sleeve approach is bold enough to keep him at the front of the country pack.