Following up 2015’s Traveller was always going to be a tough task for Chris Stapleton. Rather than do the traditional thing, Stapleton announced his intention to release two albums over the course of 2017. The first, From a Room: Volume 1, arrived in May 2017 and it became his second chart-topping album. In the US the album has already been certified Gold and last night Stapleton picked up a trio of Grammys for his work. 7 months after the release of that album, Stapleton followed through on his promise with the release of From a Room: Volume 2.
Like the first volume, From a Room: Volume 2 features 9 tracks. It opens and closes with cover versions – Kevin Welch’s Millionaire and Homer Banks and Lester Snell’s Friendship – and the songs in between are all co-written by Stapleton. The record is once again produced by Dave Cobb and Stapleton so you won’t be surprised to find that the music contained here could easily have been included on Volume 1.
Millionaire is a mellow opener to the record and it’s a reminder of Stapleton’s strengths. Even though this isn’t his song, he sings every word as if he’s lived them and that’s the gift he has as a vocalist. He can sing anything and make it sound like it’s coming from his soul, and that’s a true natural talent. Stapleton’s wife Morgane is on backing and harmony vocals, continuing to make magic.
The album’s first original track Hard Livin’ embodies the traditional influences that have always been present in Stapleton’s music. His voice soars as his sings about the realities of youth fading away and maturity setting in. From that point on Stapleton explores a variety of sounds, all the while mixing genres and maintaining his signature sound. The acoustic-led Scarecrow in the Garden is filled with religious imagery, Tryin’ to Untangle My Mind is an honest reflection of a life lived to the full while trying to make sense of things, and Midnight Train to Memphis is a rip-roaring tale about spending forty days in jail.
The album’s finest moment is the aptly titled A Simple Song. Stapleton has always excelled when he strips things back and this song is proof of that. Lyrically he reflects on his happiness with the life he has. While it may not be ground breaking stuff, it’s raw and passionate, and if you don’t have a tear in your eye by the end I’d question if you have a heart.
From a Room: Volume 2 continues Stapleton’s impressive streak. His material is always worth listening to and there’s no one like him in Country music right now. He’s managed to keep hold of Country tradition and achieve mainstream success, and he’s just dropped a hot track with Justin Timberlake. I wish From a Room had been released as one volume rather than two as this volume contains a little less emotion than the first part and mixing the two volumes together would have had even more impact.
Track list: 1. Millionaire 2. Hard Livin’ 3. Scarecrow in the Garden 4. Nobody’s Lonely Tonight 5. Tryin’ to Untangle My Mind 6. A Simple Song 7. Midnight Train to Memphis 8. Drunkard’s Prayer 9. Friendship Record label: Decca Release date: 1st December 2018