Chris Stapleton experienced a sleeper hit with his debut album Traveller. Released in 2015, the album was Stapleton’s first foray into the spotlight as an artist in his own right after writing songs for a plethora of other artists for well over a decade. Traveller garnered widespread critical acclaim and in the US it has been certified 2x Platinum. Offering a stark contrast to the majority of modern Country radio, Stapleton has managed to please traditionalists and appeal to contemporary Country fans too. With the huge success of Traveller, the pressure is on for his follow-up.
Rather than releasing one album, Stapleton announced that he would be delivering two albums over the course of 2017. The first of those is From A Room: Volume 1, a 9-track collection that promises to build on the foundations laid by Traveller. One of my criticisms of Traveller is that the record was a little bloated with a handful of tracks that could have easily been omitted. From A Room: Volume 1 takes the opposite approach streamlining the final track list to 9 songs.
After hearing Broken Halos you’d be forgiven for thinking that From A Room: Volume 1 is just more of the same from Stapleton. The song has a familiar feel with Stapleton’s soulful vocals soaring through the melody whilst his wife Morgane adds her gorgeous harmony. Actually Broken Halos is a stroke of genius, perfectly bridging the music from Traveller and carrying fans over to the next stage of Stapleton’s career.
A cover of Willie Nelson’s classic Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning reinterprets the tracks as a soulful and soul-searching bluesy ballad and if you get to the end without experiencing goosebumps, you clearly are lacking in feeling. Stapleton has this remarkable ability to sing every word as if he wrote them and he’s handing them to you directly from his soul. No moment of emotion is missed and you believe every single word that comes out of his mouth.
Second One To Know switches things up with a rocky electric guitar riff and Stapleton shows a gruffer side to his voice. It’s nice to hear him relax a little bit and let his hair down. The arrangement feels looser and Stapleton’s vocals swoop and soar all over the song’s melody. It’s going to be a fantastic track to experience live that’s for sure!
Having seen Stapleton at C2C: Country to Country in 2016, I had everything crossed that he’d be able to match his incredible song Whiskey and You. Well the song that not only matches it but quite possibly surpasses it is the gut-wrenching Either Way. The song touches your soul as Stapleton’s voice conveys the deep-rooted pain that heartbreak brings. To be able to evoke so much emotion with only an acoustic guitar melody accompanying him shows just what an incredible talent Stapleton is.
Elsewhere on the record the deep blues vibe of the gorgeous I Was Wrong pushes Stapleton’s sound into new territory, Them Stems sees the singer-songwriter having a little more fun and letting loose, and album closer Death Row embraces outlaw country with a little injection of a gospel sensibility.
From A Room: Volume 1 is a glorious record. It’s more focused and tighter than Traveller, with a strong theme throughout. Stapleton’s vocals are out of this world incredible and he has the ability to go from a low quivering vibrato to a full on gut-wrenching howl in the same sentence. Whilst I play From A Room: Volume 1 to death, I’m already counting down to Volume 2 and the possibility that Stapleton may bring his tour over to the UK in the near future.
Track List: 1. Broken Halos 2. Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning 3. Second One To Know 4. Up To No Good Livin’ 5. Either Way 6. I Was Wrong 7. Without Your Love 8. Them Stems 9. Death Row Record Label: Decca Release Date: 5th May 2017