Sigh. Everyone’s been raving about Chris Stapleton, so I guess I’m just gonna have to be the odd man out here.
I don’t get the hype. He respects the greats, and he writes good songs for himself, but with all the absolute shit on radio that has his name on it, I just don’t think he’s all everyone is touting him as. I realize the same thing could be said of Jamey Johnson, but Johnson’s own music was, shall we say, a lot better than Stapleton’s. More country, at any rate, to my ears. I’m not against Stapleton’s own recordings per se; the stuff on Traveller is a shit-ton better than what’s played on radio, but it’s just not really my thing, at least upon first listen. Too much blues & Southern rock & not enough honky-tonk a la Aaron Watson and Wade Bowen/Randy Rogers. I was telling Sabra the other night that the Allman Brothers did the Southern rock thing better in the 1970s and Stevie Ray Vaughan did the blues better in the ’80s than Stapleton is doing them now. (That cover of Charlie Daniels’ “Was It 26” is pretty good, though.)
Maybe it’ll get better with repeated listens, but I don’t know. He’s better than FGL, Thomas Rhett, and the like, to be sure, but he’s no Sturgill Simpson or Randy Rogers. And his album was okay, but I can name a bunch of other country albums that we bought this year that were better:
• Aaron Watson, The Underdog
• Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers, Hold My Beer Vol. 1
• Corb Lund, Things That Can’t Be Undone
• George Strait, Cold Beer Conversation
• Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free
• Turnpike Troubadours, self-titled
• William Clark Green, Ringling Road
• Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, Django & Jimmie
(Best one of the above? Probably a toss up between the Strait man and Bowen/Rogers….)
I will say, though, that at the very least Stapleton’s win was something else that put the lie to Gary Overton’s “if you’re not played on country radio, you don’t exist” bullshit, and that is a victory in and of itself — not to mention the fact that it enraged so many fans of the shit music people are trying to pass off as “country” anymore.