CHRIS STAPLETON – ” Starting Over “

Posted: December 25, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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chris stapleton

The bearded Nashville songwriter gets an assist from a pair of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers on his first album in three years. Piano man Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell offer their respective services, with Campbell co-writing two tracks. Fans have already heard some of the songs live: the rollicking “Arkansas,” the smouldering “You Should Probably Leave,” and even the title track have all appeared in Stapleton set lists. As an album title, “Starting Over” can’t help but carry connotations of an artistic rebirth, but three or four albums into his solo stardom, Chris Stapleton is in no position to rip it up and start again.

Stapleton found his footing with 2015’s Traveller and he’s spent the years since digging deeper into his burnished groove, tying the binds between classic country, classic rock, and classic soul even tighter. A new beginning isn’t in the cards for a singer/songwriter who has styled himself as an old-fashioned troubadour, an outlaw with a heart of gold singing sweet love songs as often as he kicks up dust. He’s a traveller on a long road, not quite forging into undiscovered country as much as finding fresh routes through familiar terrain.

But it’s the brand-new “Watch You Burn,” written about the 2017 Las Vegas massacre, that will snap your head back: “Only a coward would pick up a gun and shoot up a crowd trying to have fun,” Stapleton growls. It’s a direct, damning statement from an artist who chooses his words ever so carefully. Working once again with producer Dave Cobb, Stapleton underscores his rootsy continuity not just with his own catalogue, but with his idols. He takes the time to salute the pioneers who came before him by covering two Guy Clark songs here (“Worry B Gone,” “Old Friends”), along with a deep John Fogerty solo cut that pairs quite nicely with the swampy choogle of the original “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice.” The biggest nod to the past arrives through a couple of key members of Heartbreakers joining the fold: Benmont Tench is on eight of the album’s 14 songs, while Mike Campbell co-wrote two of the record’s highlights, the funky vamp “Watch You Burn” and the rampaging “Arkansas.”

Starting Over has a cover that screams, “This is just an album, not a big achievement,” but that cover hides the maximal quality of the album; it’s a big, blown out, towering LP that makes room for songs about departed dogs, the Las Vegas Route 91 shooting, companionship, and the relative radness of the state of Arkansas. It’s Stapleton through and through; uncompromising and hard to define, it’s all buoyed by Stapleton’s mammoth of a voice. The former Heartbreakers are excellent foils for Stapleton and they also emphasize that he’s a bit like Petty in how he revives sounds of the past for the present and in how he turns out reliably sturdy albums. Stapleton could use a bit of Petty’s flair — there’s not a lot of humour here, nor are there any flirtations with modern sounds — but his straight-ahead style nevertheless satisfies on Starting Over.

Release date: November 13th

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