Chris Stapleton is without a doubt one of the most talented artists in music right now. With a prolific catalogue of hits for other artists and plenty of his own hits, Stapleton has had a meteoric rise over the last five years since the release of his debut album ‘Traveller’. That album was certified 4x Platinum and in 2017 Stapleton followed it up with the two-part album ‘From A Room’. We last saw him on UK shows in 2019 when he headlined C2C: Country to Country and now Stapleton is releasing his eagerly-awaited fourth album (or third if you count ‘From a Room’ as one release) ‘Starting Over’.
An artist who needs no frills, Stapleton always succeeds on the strength of his vocals and his songwriting. As with all his albums, there are a few covers thrown into the mix on ‘Starting Over’ – John Fogerty’s ‘Joy of My Life’ and Guy Clark’s ‘Worry B Gone’ and ‘Old Friends’ – but the other 11 tracks are new tracks written by Stapleton with various collaborators. The album opens with the acoustic lead single, and title track, ‘Starting Over’ and it’s a nice connector to his previous albums. Stapleton’s voice is one that captivates you immediately and with a sparse backing and his wife Morgane on harmony vocals, he really shines as he sings about making it through life with someone who loves and supports you.
The rock influences kick in on the riff-driven ‘Devil Always Made Me Think Twice’, a song I’m already dying to hear in a live arena (remember gigs, anyone?!?). The deep groove and foot-stomping beat reels you in and doesn’t let you go until the song is over. ‘Cold’ is the album’s first (of many) standout moments. It’s classic Stapleton putting his gut-wrenching vocal right in the centre of everything. There’s something about his voice that just transports you to a different place and it moves every single part of your soul. Few artists are able to do that but Stapleton makes it look easy.
Highlights on the album include the hard rocking ‘Arkansas’, which features gritty vocals and crunchy electric guitars, the 70s almost-Fleetwood Mac-esque ‘Hillbilly Blood’ and the hard-hitting truth-telling of ‘Watch You Burn’, which takes aim at the people responsible for the various atrocities that have taken place in America over the past few years. My absolute favourite moment on the record comes on ‘Maggie’s Song’, an ode to Stapleton’s late dog. It’s surprisingly emotional, heartwarming and just… well, lovely. As a dog lover, it hit me in all the right places.
In the album’s final stretch Stapleton injects a bit of loose Blues into ‘You Should Probably Leave’, a surprisingly funky moment, and he closes the album with the beautiful ‘Nashville, TN’, a song that sees him breaking up with Music City.
Quite frankly ‘Starting Over’ is flawless. There’s nothing here to pick fault with; there’s no filler and every song deserves its place here. Stapleton is a once-in-a-lifetime talent and while some of his critics may moan about his stage presence, I’d happily sit anywhere and listen to him perform. A master of his craft, Stapleton is the best there is in Country music and to be honest, any genre of music. ‘Starting Over’ is his finest album yet and it’ll increase his ever-growing fan base even further.
Track listing: 1. Starting Over 2. Devil Always Made Me Think Twice 3. Cold 4. When I’m With You 5. Arkansas 6. Joy of My Life 7. Hillbilly Blood 8. Maggie’s Song 9. Whiskey Sunrise 10. Worry B Gone 11. Old Friends 12. Watch You Burn 13. You Should Probably Leave 14. Nashville, TN Record label: Decca Records Release date: 13th November 2020 Buy ‘Starting Over’ now