Graham Reid | | 1 min read
When Elsewhere profiled singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton back in mid 2016 he was already an enormously successful artist and we noted he was in the lineage of crossover country artists like Garth Brooks in the Nineties.
In many ways Brooks prepared the ground for a dozen “hat act” artists and Taylor Swift to move from country into the mainstream.
Stapleton had fronted the Steedrivers in 2000s (whom we reviewed) and was winning Grammy and Country Music Association awards. He had co-written with Guy Clark and Alan Jackson, Adele covered one of his songs, he sang a duet with Justin Timberlake and since then he has continued to play in huge stadia and pick up even more awards and collaborations.
He might look like a mountain man but he's collected – eight Grammys, 14 Country Music Awards and nine from the Academy of Country Music
There have been more big name associations – a duet with Adele on the reissue of her Easy on Me (which got her onto the country charts), collaborations with Ed Sheeran and Sheryl Crow, and he recorded with Taylor Swift (I Bet You Think About Me on the re-recording of Red).
The important thing to note is these artists come to him, not the other way around: Stapleton makes pop artists cool for country listeners and takes his brand of country to a mainstream audience.
He cut his teeth as a writer in Nashville and with his 2015 solo debut album Traveller, picked up his first Grammy, CMA and ACM awards.
His new double album Higher errs towards familiar themes (heartbreak, tough times, love, the outsider) with authentically rasping vocals (It Takes a Woman)., stadium-pleasing country-rock (White Horse currently nominated for two Grammys, the swampy South Dakota) and with touchstones in Bob Seger (The Bottom) as much as Waylon Jennings (Crosswind).
It's a strong enough collection but not quite having the impact of Traveller or other previous albums.
Artists looking for more Stapleton to cover -- and bandcamp is stacked with artists singing his songs -- will alight on the country-soul ballads Loving You On My Mind and the Al Green-influenced Think I'm In Love With You.
And Weight of the World which would polish up nicely as a final song in the Las Vegas show.
Higher is painted with a broad brush.
You can hear this album at Spotify here.