By Jane Roser
Chris Stapleton has had a good year and it’s well-deserved considering he’s one of the most talented, prolific singer-songwriters hailing from Kentucky since Loretta Lynn (and coincidentally both are children of coal miners).
Recently nominated for three Grammy Awards – Best Country Album (From A Room: Volume 1), Best Country Song (“Broken Halos”) and Best Country Solo Performance (“Either Way”), his latest album, From A Room: Volume 2, is the follow-up companion to his highly praised From A Room: Volume 1, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart. It still remains the best-selling country album of 2017 (Stapleton’s 2015 double-platinum solo debut, Traveller, is currently the second best-selling country album of the year). How’s that for some hell yeah?
But this ain’t your mama’s country music. Infused with blues, rock and roll, gorgeous ballads, and an ever so subtle hint of bluegrass, From A Room: Volume 2 is a soulful record that takes themes of loss, loneliness, excesses, gratitude, and friendship and delivers a powerful, barn-burning punch to the gut. There isn’t a song here that falls short; they all captivate the listener with their authenticity and simple, unpretentious production.
Stapleton has said that several of these songs are well over ten years old and include two covers (Kevin Welch’s “Millionaire” and “Friendship” written by Homer Banks and Lester Snell), as well as “Midnight Train To Memphis”, which Stapleton wrote with Mike Henderson when they were in the bluegrass band, The SteelDrivers.
Teaming up again with award-winning producer, Dave Cobb, (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson), the album takes its name from Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A (the capital “A” in From A Room) where both volumes were recorded. Along with Stapleton on vocals and guitar, From A Room: Volume 2 features Cobb on acoustic guitar, Morgane Stapleton on harmony vocals, J.T. Cure on bass and Derek Mixon on drums.
“Hard Livin'” is an electrifying, visceral rock and roll tune following a honky-tonk man who “never thought it would happen to me, but this hard livin’ ain’t easy as it used to be/I looked a lot, but never found/a woman that could settle me down.”
Released two weeks ago, the single “Tryin’ To Untangle My Mind” is steeped in blues, and crackles hotter than a hickory fire, while “Scarecrow In The Garden” is a haunting ballad which looks at the difficulties of living and working on a farm when you’re at the mercy of unpredictable environmental conditions, as a scarecrow “that looks like Lucifer” keeps a close watch.
Powerful vocals, emotional and witty songwriting (including this fantastic rhyme: “My sister got laid off last fall/and I’ve got high cholesterol”) plus a fever-ridden, explosive delivery makes From A Room: Volume 2, one of the best albums of the year.