It only takes 32 minutes to listen to From A Room Vol. 1 by Chris Stapleton but it will feel like 25 years. There’s no doubt that Stapleton’s life has had it’s balance of glory and despair but it’s never been more prevalent than this new album. While the album is freshly released, he wrote the songs prior to the release of “Traveller.”
Right out of the gates, you get Broken Halos, which sets the tone of the album and it’s clearly dark. The opening track alludes to the inevitable loss of innocence that one will encounter through their life and is the perfect segue into the sadness that is Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning. The second track speaks directly to anyone who’s been through a rough patch in their life that was compounded by losing the one they loved.
Life has a funny way of making the phrase, “when it rains it pours” come true and Stapleton has a funny way of utilizing music to deliver anecdotes of the struggle. There’s a true soulful sound that emerges not only from his lyrics and voice but also his guitar. There are few artists and musicians who can emit such emotion through sound like Stapleton.
The darkness doesn’t stop just because the tempo rises. If you saw him perform at RodeoHouston then you got an early glimpse of Second One To Know which roars in as the third track of the album. The pleading heard in the song is an attempt to prevent the serious heartache that is on the horizon but the magic of this song comes in the guitar work. The way in which he manages to get sounds out of his guitar on this track can only be described as magical.
If you’re wondering, how someone as successful as Chris Stapleton find so much darkness to sing about then you need only listen to Up To No Good Livin in which he lays it all out on the table. Choices are a major part of life and we all make them to the best of our abilities but sometimes the reason for the choice is only known by the self. The strongest find a way out of the hard times and usually reflect on the times that made us into who we have become. One can only hope that the love we find is willing to trust that our efforts to improve are not in vain.
The first single to be released to radio from this album is Either Way and you could call it a love song but that term fits like a shoe on the wrong foot. You can lace it up but it just doesn’t feel right. It’s possibly the slowest tempo song on the entire album but it’s undoubtedly the darkest. The tale of separation and relationship plight delves the listener to a deep and dark place that only holds a tiny spec of light. It’s a depiction of that valley that tests the true character of a couple’s desire to persist.
What heals a broken relationship, really? Forgiveness, honesty and self awareness. Perhaps, the hardest person in life to forgive is ourselves and some of the most difficult actions to engage are admitting when one is wrong. Stapleton admits his errors and shortcomings in I Was Wrong. This is the 6th track on the album and starts to illuminate the pathway to brighter days. Words can cut deep and you can hear a man on his knees begging for forgiveness. Once again, the guitar becomes more powerful than they lyrics as it is the vehicle that delivers the true blues. The listener can feel the emotion with each picking of the guitar strings.
While the album moves toward the light it’s still cloaked in darkness as you hear in Without Your Love. This story depicts the life experience without the love of your life at your side. The forgiveness hasn’t quite happened just yet but the begging has not stopped. Time heals all but it moves at its own pace as does this album. The musical background tries to lighten the mood but the lyrics draw you back to the darkness that is From A Room Vol. 1.
Then, the bluesy-rock, rough-around the edges coping sounds blast through Them Stems. Stapleton, no stranger to talking about how marijuana and liquor have accompanied his musical lifetime, sings about a tough time of being down on his luck. He’s looking for answers as he copes with the loss of his woman but the root of the tune is that everything is lost. He’s at the bottom of the barrel but the uptempo track lends one to not feel too bad about the situation.
Finally, the darkest title, Death Row, puts an end to the album that you had to know was coming. As much as the listener wanted to experience the light it wasn’t going to happen on this album. Death Row is Stapleton’s analogy for being on the short end of the relationship stick. He’s not in a conventional prison but rather an emotional one. At his wits end, Chris Stapleton, struts into the darkness with a different level of confidence than he began with. The quintessential, letting go of all that he cannot control.
The album will leave you wanting From A Room Vol. 2 because it feels unfinished. There’s more to this journey but we’ll have to wait. Another album is expected this Summer from Chris Stapleton but no word on the title or the context but one thing you can be sure of is that it will be more magical, musical genius.
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