Chris Stapleton - Traveller
The most intriguing thing about Chris Stapleton’s breakthrough at the CMA Awards was the twist that saw his onstage partner for the night, Justin Timberlake, gain credibility from the big bearded, big voiced country singer, rather than the other way round. Following that career defining moment Timberlake released the song they performed together, ‘Drink You Away’, to country radio in the US. On the back of that performance Timberlake was suddenly credible as a potential country music star. In one fell swoop shock waves had been felt throughout Nashville.
Anyhow, if you’re into your country music then you’ll be more than familiar with the record that started it all off for Stapleton, his debut, Traveller. Released in the US in May it was well reviewed but not too successful in the way of sales. It seemed the man responsible for many songs by other Nashville acts (including Luke Bryan’s best song, ‘Drink A Beer’) would settle into a life of solid not spectacular album sales. What those numbers didn’t tell you is that Traveller is one of the best albums by any artist this year. In any genre.
It’s success is down to the double whammy of the Kentucky born singer’s ability to write melodies to die for alongside lyrics that tell a story, and his not-so-secret weapon: that voice. Whether it’s the the long and winding roads portrayed by the title track or the vocal showcases of ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ and ‘Fire Away’ every track is on the money. The production from Dave Cobb, who lets Stapleton’s voice breath where it needs to, and the uniformly fantastic supporting musicians all add to the atmosphere. That it's such a fully rounded creation is astounding for a debut and shows the Nashville resident has learnt from his time in and around the industry.
If you need anymore proof of the sheer brilliance of Stapleton’s creation then the bluesy emotional beauty of final track ‘Sometimes I Cry’ defies words. The man himself sums it up best at the end of the record: "There you go. Thank you very much for being here."