Originally published on addictedtonoise.com.au
Waterfront Park Louisville Kentucky 9 September 201
Chris Stapleton has had an unusual but increasingly successful career.
He was raised in Paintsville, Kentucky, his father a coal miner. Moving to Nashville in 2001 to pursue a music career, he became the lead singer (and guitarist) of the edgy bluegrass outfit The SteelDrivers from 2008 to 2010 (the group was nominated for three Grammy Awards including Best Bluegrass Album for Reckless). Stapleton then founded a rock band called The Jompson Brothers and his first release as a solo artist followed with Traveller in 2015.
To say Traveller has been well received is an understatement – rave reviews, appearances on numerous ‘best-of’ lists, three Country Music Association Awards and two Americana Award nominations.
He has gravitas as a songwriter as well, with compositions covered by Big Country artists such as Tim McGraw, Brooks and Dunn, Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins and Lee Ann Womack.
Tonight in Louisville he was appearing in a packed park on the shores of the impressive Ohio River, with steel bridges dotting the landscape and Indiana on the other side. Behind, the city skyline. It was balmy as well – a lot to like.
The growling ‘Nobody To Blame’ opened up proceedings in perfect fashion.
Songs from Traveller featured throughout the night as you would expect, the beautiful two-step duet ‘More Of You’, the long, burning ‘Outlaw State of Mind’, the chilling ‘Was It 26’, ‘Might As Well Get Stoned’ which really showcased his ‘monster’ voice, ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ and the soaring ‘Fire Away’ were there as well. There were nice covers – a Hank Williams Jr song and Lynyrd Skynrd’s ‘Free Bird’. I was surprised that Stapleton was doing all the guitar work himself, accompanied by bass, drums and wife Morgane on backing vocals. A fine player he is too – add another skill to his resume!
An encore of ‘Whiskey and You’, ‘Traveller’, ‘Parachute’ and the breathtaking ‘Sometimes I Cry’ and it was all over.
I still remember the first time I heard Stapleton’s voice as a member of The SteelDrivers. It has taken me a while to see him. Attending this event was not without its challenges – the ticket agency’s only option was to post tickets to a US address two weeks before (not useful for a visitor), driving to the event was not simple given construction works and spaghetti highway ramps, parking was incredibly difficult and/or expensive (in my case both!), there weren’t enough food stalls which meant huge delays and lines, the porta-loos could only be accessed by ploughing through those lines, and it was generally crowded and smoking was rife.
But…if I had to do it all again, I would without hesitation. The concert was a triumph and a showcase of an incredibly talented and versatile performer. Chris Stapleton is one of those performers (along with Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson) who is revitalising country/alt. country/Americana music.
Tonight I got to see him do it in person.
Let us hope he makes it out to Australia sometime. That is a moot point given his following in the US. If he does make it to our shores, go see him.