Chris Stapleton, From a Room: Volume 1 | Album Review
Chris Stapleton remains consistent on his sophomore album, ‘From a Room: Volume 1.’ ‘From A Room’ is a brief affair, but superbly executed.
Sigh, it seems like country musician Chris Stapleton blew up overnight. Traveller ascended from a quietly released album in 2015 to one of the biggest of the year. Not only did Stapleton see his debut achieve commercial success, it also achieved critical success, winning two Grammys at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards. He returns with a highly-anticipated sophomore album, From a Room: Volume 1. Despite the buzz, From A Room: Volume 1 is comprised of only nine songs and runs just 32 minutes.
Stapleton gets off to a quick start with “Broken Halos,” showcasing the sheer power of his voice. His tone is rich and robust, packing a punch from the get-go. In addition to a sensational vocal, he delivers authentic country music. Clearly, Stapleton is a throwback, and that’s part of his charm.
“Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning”
The throwback vibe of From a Room: Volume 1 continues on ballad “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning.” Actually, “Last Thing I Needed…” takes the vintage country sound to the next level, sounding anachronistic in 2017. Anachronistic is meant as no disrespect here; “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning” is chocked full of character, led by Stapleton’s signature vocals.
“Second One to Know” contrasts the balladry of “Last Thing I Needed…” in favor of more country-rock savvy. Even though “Second One to Know” has more drive and tempo, Stapleton maintains a sense of poise. That’s not to say the record doesn’t cook, but it never grows overwrought. Among the highlights is the guitar solo.
Six-eight meter returns on “Up to No Good Livin’,” another old-school, traditionalist country sound. Like “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning,” Stapleton is relaxed, never flustered. Contrasting the aforementioned, however, is there’s more assertiveness. Similar to “Second One to Know,” he’s gritty, yet opts against histrionics. Ultimately, this is another balanced, enjoyable record.
He follows “Up to No Good Livin’” with a stripped ballad, “Either Way,” his subtlest record in regards to production. Despite the modest backdrop, acoustic guitar accompaniment, Stapleton does more vocally – atonement if you will. Not that he needs to atone for anything as “Either Way” gives him a fifth consistent, thoughtfully penned number.
“I Was Wrong”
“I Was Wrong” doesn’t accelerate the tempo greatly, but quickly establishes a groove. Instantly, the perception that “I Was Wrong” is a surefire hit is established. True to the perception, the record finds Stapleton on his A-game. While more instrumentation makes this more exciting musically than “Either Way,” the tidiness of the production is impressive. The electric guitar is distorted, but not overdone. The bass line anchors things down with superb clarity. As for Stapleton, he never has to fight the backdrop.
“Without Your Love” continues to showcase the humble, poised vibe of From a Room: Volume 1. The M.O. is familiar: consistent, poised, and enjoyable. The harmonic progression is a pro on this Stapleton/Mike Henderson co-write.
“Them Stems” shines, thanks to being unapologetic. How is he unapologetic? He’s been smoking “them stems” – those left-handed cigarettes.
“This morning I smoked them stems / Yeah, that’s the kinda shape I’m in / I’m in a bad, bad way again / ‘Cause this morning I smoked them stems.”
By far, “Them Stems” is the most fun joint (no pun intended) on From a Room: Volume 1. No, glorifying drug use shouldn’t be fun, but there’s an undeniable infectiousness about Stapleton’s situation. Wait, that sounds like schadenfreude… Moving on.
True to its title, closer “Death Row” opens forebodingly, set in a minor key and taking nearly 50 seconds to establish itself. Once Stapleton enters, he’s filled with fire, flaunting the power of his instrument. Honestly, there’s a lot of hell – fire and brimstone – on this particular vocal. Nothing wrong with some devilishness. Even with the hellishness conveyed, more intriguing is how subtlety intensifies the effect more so than loud dynamics or lots of instruments.
Nine songs and 32 minutes. That’s all Chris Stapleton could muster up on From a Room: Volume 1. Thankfully, it’s a fantastic 32 minutes. Furthermore, thankfully, volume 2 is coming, eventually. The best way to describe the quality of From a Room: Volume 1? Chris Stapleton – he did that!
Gems: “Broken Halos,” “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning,” “I Was Wrong” & “Them Stems”
Chris Stapleton • From a Room: Volume 1 • Mercury • Release: 5.5.17
Photo Credit: Mercury