Like many country troubadours, Chris Stapleton cut his teeth as a songwriter in Nashville, churning out tunes that wound up hits in the hands of others. Kenny Chesney brought "Never Wanted Anything More" to number one and Darius Rucker had a hit with "Come Back Song," but those associations suggest Stapleton would toe a mainstream line when he recorded his 2015 debut, Traveler.
This release, produced by Dave Cobb, however, suggests something rougher and rowdier -- an Eric Church without a metallic fixation or a Sturgill Simpson stripped of arty psychedelic affectations. Some of this smoothness derives from Stapleton's supple singing. As the rare songwriter-for-hire who also has considerable performance chops, Stapleton is sensitive to the needs of an individual song, something that is evident when he's covering "Tennessee Whiskey".
He has a variety of songs here, too, casually switching gears between bluegrass waltz, Southern rockers, crunching blues, soulful slow-burners, and swaggering outlaw anthems -- every one of them belonging to a tradition, but none sounding musty due to Stapleton's casualness. Never once does he belabor his range, nor does he emphasize the sharply sculpted songs. Everything flows naturally, and that ease is so alluring upon the first spin of Traveler that it's not until repeated visits that the depth of the album becomes apparent.
A1 – Traveler – 3:42
A2 – Fire Away – 4:04
A3 - Tennessee Whiskey - 4:52
A4 – Parachute - 4:13
B1 - Whiskey And You - 3:56
B2 - Nobody To Blame - 4:04
B3 - More Of You – 4:37
B4 - When The Stars Come Out – 4:16
C1 - Daddy Doesn't Pray Anymore – 4:09
C2 - Might As Well Get Stoned – 4:37
C3 - Was It 26 – 4:49
D1 - The Devil Named Music – 6:07
D2 - Outlaw State Of Mind – 5:37
D3 -Sometimes I Cry – 4:02