TRAVELLER - CHRIS STAPLETON
LCM ALBUM OF THE MONTH - NOVEMBER 2015
Release date: May 5th, 2015
Record Label: Mercury Nashville
Traveller is the stunning new solo album by the multi-award winning and former The SteelDrivers lead singer & guitarist, Chris Stapleton. At age 37 Chris has produced a mature album full of great songs with a both a freshness and a retro feel of the late 70's. It is a perfect blend of Country, Southern Rock and Blues. It is also a personal, reflective, powerful and beautifully crafted album full of real heart. Traveller is the kind of Country album you will have on repeat. This is a modern Country classic. Chris Stapleton is the real deal and hopefully around for a very long while to come.
On the surface with his impressive vocal, with all its volume and growls, Chris cuts an imposing figure. But sit with him a while and the soft-spoken Stapleton reveals himself to be the nicest guy in the room. Such polarity extends all the way into the Kentucky native's career too. While Traveller is full of the kind of traditional, organic country that purists long for, he's also written some of pop country's most radio-friendly hits: Thomas Rhett's "Crash and Burn," Darius Rucker's "Come Back Song," Kenny Chesney's "Never Wanted Nothing More", Luke Bryan's "Drink a Beer," and "Love's Gonna Make It Alright' for George Strait among them. As a songwriter, over 170 of Stapleton's songs have appeared on albums by such artists as Adele, Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley. He has co-written with notable artists like Vince Gill, Peter Frampton and Sheryl Crow.
He wrote or co-wrote all but two of the album's 14 tracks, like the stunning title song, the on-the-nose "Might As Well Get Stoned" and the rough and tough "Outlaw State of Mind." The two outside songs he did cut are bona fide classics: the often recorded "Tennessee Whiskey" (Dean Dillon/Linda Hargrove) and "Was It 26" (Don Sampson).
Chris went against the Music Row standard and used his own band for the album (bass player J.T. Cure (The Jompson Brothers), pedal steel player Robby Turner, drummer Derek Mixon, Mickey Raphael on harmonica and wife Morgane Stapleton on BV's). Producing the album was Dave Cobb, the producer behind Sturgill Simpson's 'Metamodern Sounds' and Jason Isbell's 'Southeastern'. The bulk of "Traveller" album was recorded at historic 'RCA Studio A' in Nashville.
But for all its relaxed vibe, Traveller contains some heavy themes. "The Devil Named Music" calls out the hell that can be living on the road, "Might As Well Get Stoned" rings with resignation and "Sometimes I Cry" is tortured blues. But the album's true weeper and emotional core is "Daddy Doesn't Pray Anymore," which Stapleton wrote after taking note of his normally devout father skipping grace before a meal late in his life.
Stapleton said that the album was inspired by a road trip he took after his father died in October 2013. He said he wrote the song, "Traveller," from the album while on a road trip with his wife, driving down Interstate 40 from Phoenix, Arizona, to Nashville via New Mexico. His wife Morgane helped to sift through 15 years of songs to pick 9 songs to start recording with.
Traveller is the lead track on the album and one of our favourites. With great pedal steel from Robby Turner and BV's from Chris's wife Morgane this very catchy song this reminds us of CSNY at their finest. My heartbeat's rhythm is a lonesome sound/Just like the rubber turning on the ground/Always lost and nowhere bound/I'm just a traveler on this earth/Sure as my heart's behind the pocket of my shirt/I'll just keep rolling till I'm in the dirt/'Cause I'm a traveler, oh, I'm a traveler/I couldn't tell you honey, I don't know/Where I'm going but I've got to go/'Cause every turn reveals some other road/And I'm a traveler, oh, I'm a traveler
Fire Away co-written with Danny Green is an emotional heartbreak ballad. Honey load up your questions/And pick up your sticks and your stones/And pretend I’m a shelter for heartaches that don’t have a home/Choose the words that cut like a razor/And all that I’ll say is/Fire away/Take your best shot/Show me what you got/Honey, I’m not afraid/Rear back and take aim/And fire away/Well, I wish I could say/That I’ve never been here before/But you know and I know/That I’ll always come back for more/Your love might be my damnation/But I’ll cry to my grave
Chris's cover of the blusey classic Tennessee Whiskey is another stand-out track. Full of emotion and feeling, Chris's vocal perfectly complements the songs themes. The song also has an excellent electric guitar solo.
Parachute is a more high tempo Southern Rock track about providing tender support in tough times. You only need a roof when it’s raining/You only need a fire when it’s cold/You only need a drink when the whiskey is the only thing you have left to hold/Sun comes up and goes back down and falling feels like flying till you hit the ground/Say the word and I’ll be there for you/Baby, I will be your parachute
The very tender ballad Whiskey & You One’s the devil, one keeps driving me insane/At times I wonder if they ain’t both the same/But one’s a liar that helps to hide me from my pain/And one’s the long gone bitter truth, that’s the difference between whiskey and you./I’ve got a problem but it ain’t like what you think/I drink because I’m lonesome and I’m lonesome ‘cause I drink/But if I don’t break down and bring it on myself/It’ll hit out of the blue/That’s the difference between whiskey and you
Nobody To Blame is another deeply reflective song with a perflect blend of electric guitar, pedal steel and harmonica.
The mandolin lead More of You is another song of reflection and love. Harking back to Johnny Cash and June Carter.
When The Stars Come Out is another classic song of hope and one of Chris's favourites on the album. I was looking for a change of scene/You were looking at a magazine/It was red carpets and limousines/And the grass seemed so much greener/All we wanted was to get there fast/So, we packed up everything we had/Running on hope and a tank of gas/Like dreams ain’t just for dreamers/We couldn’t wait to leave that life behind/Trying to find salvation in that city limit sign
Daddy's Doesn't Pray Anymore is a deeply personal and moving song about Chris's late father, accented with some sublime and subtle harmonica. Chris wrote this song after taking note of his normally devout father skipping grace before a meal late in his life.
Might As Well Get Stoned ventures back into Southern Rock/Blues territory with another honest song about reflections on life.
The rich bluesy cover of Was it 26 has a great retro feel to it and reminds us of Israel Nash's River Plan's album.
The Devil Named Music with it's rich harmonica playing is themed about the struggles and loneliness of life on the road, of missing friends and family.
Another LCM favourite, the rockier electric guitar led Outlaw State of Mind with it's great harmonica solo closes out the studio section of the album. You can imagine this track being part of a Tarrantino or Coen Brothers movie soundtrack.
The album finishes with the only live track on the album the heartful and powerful tortured blues song Sometimes I Cry.
On the 4th November 2015, Chris Stapleton won the 2015 Country Music Association Award for Best Male Vocalist, New Artist of the Year and "Traveller" won Album of the Year.
Chris will be performing at C2C, London this year on the Sunday together with Kacey Musgraves, Eric Church and Andrews Combs