By Jason Gartshore of Americana Review
We are just weeks removed from the 49th annual Country Music Association awards where the Association bestowed its New Artist, Album and Male Vocalist of the Year honors to Chris Stapleton. This is significant for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Stapleton is an Americana artist who happens to be on a major Nashville record label (Mercury Nashville). It’s significant in that these honors were awarded based solely on the quality of the singer, the songwriter and the songs themselves, as country radio did what it typically does when an original singer arrives on the scene … meaning they summarily dismissed his record and his talent.
Consider what has become of mainstream country music in recent memory, at least for the last few years. The airwaves have essentially been one big tailgate party, with the sounds of guys loving their trucks and coolers of beer only slightly less than their ladies. The fact that the Country Music Association awarded an artist like Chris Stapleton with those high honors, in my view clearly signals a shift in the thinking and what will begin to carry the day going forward for mainstream country. The people will always come back to what’s real, and folks, Chris Stapleton is as real as it gets. I present to you Exhibit A, his performance at the Awards show with Justin Timberlake.
Florida Georgia Line, the ambassadors of Bro-Country, followed the performance. Thedemeanour of the crowd at that point was telling. . . really, the demeanour of Florida Georgia Line was telling as well. A seismic shift had taken place in that 8 minute plus performance. What should have been known from the outset is now blatantly clear; bro-country is on its way out.
Exhibit B sits in the album sales since the above performance. “Traveller”, the Album of Year, has sold over 197,000 copies and counting since this performance. Considering that the previous weekly sales of “Traveller” was just under 2,300, its telling what the consumer is now looking for. Speaking of the album “Traveller”, it is a beautifully composed piece of art that is worthy of the honor “Album of the Year.” The album itself was borne following the death of Stapleton’s father. As Chris puts it, he wrote an album “he thought his dad would like.” The album is an astounding mix of outlaw country, blues, Americana and bluegrass. The 14 track album contains two covers, the bluesy version of the George Jones classic “Tennessee Whiskey” and a Charlie Daniels Band cut, “Was It 26?” The title track is a whimsical ballad about a free spirit, while “Daddy Doesn’t Pray” speaks to the pain experienced at the loss of his father. It is a solo debut record to be incredibly proud of.
The world is just beginning to notice Chris Stapleton, the songwriter behind hits for Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and many others. The world got a small taste of the talent of Chris Stapleton the singer and performer two weeks ago. Now, the world has opened up for Chris Stapleton. Well deserved, and long may it last.