Let me start by saying I don't get excited by very many albums. Typically they feature a few songs that were on the radio and the rest are filler. Once in a while they'll throw you an album cut that radio should've played, but that's not always the case. That being said, the new Chris Stapleton album may just be the best body of work that I've heard all year. This is an emotional, intense, spiritual body of work that you don't just listen to, you experience it.
Light a couple of candles, pour a drink and invest an hour experiencing this album. I predict this will win Album of the Year at the Grammys, ACMs & CMAs next year and I have five reasons to prove my case.
Before I get to the 6 reasons, listen to the album opener...the title track and first single: "Starting Over." This truly sets the tone for the rest of this experience.
Now that the tone is set, let's dive into a less optimistic track, but a necessary contribution to a country project...a dark, haunting breakup song. You feel the anger of heartache in the arrangement, lead by a crushingly downtempo piano opening that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. This is "Cold."
Good stuff, right? Okay, let's move on to a song about a pet pup. Yes, a song about man's best friend. It's the story of the life of a dog with a crushingly sad ending, spoiler alert. If you've ever experienced the death of a pet, you know how sad it can be. But this song celebrates a dog's soul and it's beautiful. Here's "Maggie's Song."
Let's move on to a song about a man reflecting on life from the halfway mark. He struggles with his regrets and failures, but this isn't a sad song. Instead, he pivots into a chorus recognizing that the love of his life is truly one of his proudest parts of his life. Yes, this is a love song. The production feels like an old Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard song. This is "When I'm With You."
Let's move onto a song that hits home for Las Vegas and the country music community. It's about the 1 October tragedy in Las Vegas and rather than tell you my take on this song, just push play and experience "Watch You Burn."
That song stays with you. Stapleton has a way with intensifying the layers to really bring to life an emotion. In this song, it's much simpler. Just a guitar and steel guitar to tell the tale of singers and songwriters that moved to Nashville to live out their dreams, only to have to leave it behind due to, what feels like a reference to the pandemic and the financial toll it has taken on Music City. My heart goes out to the songs that will never be written or sung because of this tragic turn of events. Listen to "Nashville, TN."
So I'm sure by now you understand what I meant by this being a spiritual experience. The sixth and final reason this will be an Album of the Year winner, is a song you may already know. It's been a fan favorite for years, after someone posted a clip of Chris performing this song at a show several years ago. In fact, I predict this will be a single on Country radio in 2021 and will go on to be one of his biggest hits. It's about an attempt to resist the temptation of another by saying "You Should Probably Leave."
What an incredible body of work. Chris Stapleton has set the bar high for others and I predict a big year of well-deserved accolades for this project. What's YOUR favorite song on this album?