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Friday, December 09, 2016

Traveller

The Grammy Award for Best Country Album went to Chris Stapleton for Traveller. It's the debut album for the hirsute songwriter who wrote songs for many other artists before cutting his own record.

I have a very contentious relationship with country music, which I'm sure I've mentioned before. I hate fake country, with guys with expensive cowboy hats and fancy boots who have never been near a cow. My idea of torture would be to be forced to watch the CMA Awards show. But I like authentic country, like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Willie Nelson. Stapleton is closer to those guys, though I don't know if he's ever roped a steer.

I imagine he has had a sip or two of whiskey, as that particular libation features heavily in the lyrics, and should have been the album title. It is in two titles; "Tennessee Whiskey" (which he did not write) and "Whiskey and You" (which he did). Per the country music code, his songs are mostly about loneliness and turning to a bottle to escape his pain. But Stapleton, with his low growl of a voice (which at times sounds like Bruce Springsteen) sells it.

My other favorite song on the record is another one he didn't write, called "Was It 26," And even though this song was written by Don Sampson, he captures the flavor of the album:

"Livin' hard was easy when I was young and bullet-proof
I had no chains to bind me, just a guitar and a roof
Emptied every bottle, when I poured I never missed
I had blood shot eyes at twenty-five or was it twenty-six
Didn't seem to matter what price I had to pay
Cause anything worth havin', I’d just lose anyway
Friends worried about me they’d asked if I was sick
Thought I wouldn’t die at twenty-five or was it twenty-six"

Another country staple is the guy who blows a good relationship, and Stapleton does that well with "Nobody to Blame":

"She took down the photograph
Of our wedding day
Ripped it down the middle
And threw my half away
And I got nobody to blame but me"

The music is tinged with rock, and I don't believe there are any steel guitars, which is another annoying aspect of country music, so this one is refreshing. I expect bigger things from Chris Stapleton.

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