Kentucky born singer-guitarist Chris Stapleton’s second solo record, From A Room: Volume 1 is a deep take on soulful country based sounds.
Stapleton, who is viewed in some quarters as a neo-traditionalist or “outlaw” singer, could be both. But listening to From A Room reveals a musician with roots in southern blues rock and old school Memphis sounds.
Stapleton and his band (JT Cure on bass, Derek Mixon on drums, producer Dave Cobb on acoustic guitar and Morgane Stapleton on harmony vocals) are a versatile bunch. They move from grit rock on Second One to Know to a hard bitten confessional in Up To No Good Livin. The latter song showcases Stapleton’s classic baritone vocal, while the former rocks hard as Stapleton pulls off stinging blues rock guitarisms.
Producer Cobb and the band keep these songs to an average three and a half minute mark, making them punchy and focussed. Old School economy proves its sense and worth.
This lean approach brings out the soul in Stapleton’s delivery. On one of the longest songs — at just over 4 minutes — on this quick player he summons primal vibes while plucking his acoustic. Either Way is bare bones but sounds mighty expansive for a backwoods lament.
The magic of this recording is the expression and range of material. I Was Wrong is a soul-country hybrid with shivery guitar and gut wrenching vocals. Death Row is an aptly named track rooted in old blues, part Leadbelly, Son House, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. It’s as dark as midnight. Stapleton’s vocal presence can get scary but it’s also real and warm.
He and his band rock in every imagined sense of the word.
–Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music releases in his column, Street Sounds, every Friday.