Chris Stapleton - “Starting Over” Review
Chris Stapleton completely rocks the house on his fourth studio album, “Starting Over.”
Stapleton has had nothing to prove with his impressive catalog and plentiful recognition from fans and critics alike. The singer has won five Grammy awards (10 total nominations), and he has been the recipient of 10 Country Music Association Awards and even more from the ACM and Billboard.
So, how could he possibly meet expectations on his newest record?
“Starting Over” actually manages to exceed expectations with quality songwriting, the charming, gruff vocals of Stapleton and melodious instrumentation making it one of the best albums of the year.
Spanning across 14 tracks, each of the 54-minutes of the album are used compellingly, and they demonstrate the widespread talent that Stapleton has to offer. It is over 20 minutes longer than his last two records, but the length is justified by the significance of each track.
Stapleton has a little help as well — producer Dave Cobb is back along with writing credits from former Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers members Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. Even Creedence Clearwater Revival legend John Fogerty is here.
Stapleton sings of family, heartbreak, the country and even tragedy, and does so in the most magnificent of ways. Every word radiates passion and beauty. He sounds amazing for a 42-year-old.
On songs like “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice” and “Arkansas,” Stapleton is having fun jamming out, and singing of mischief and his guilty pleasures. There is plenty of tonality shift throughout the record, as no two sounds sound the same.
“Maggie’s Song,” a tune that Stapleton wrote a day after his dog of 14 years died, is terribly sad but inspiring. It encourages the audience to cherish their loved ones, and Stapleton’s wife’s backing vocals really emphasize the importance of family. They harmonize perfectly in the most wholesome of ways.
There is another tonal shift on “Watch You Burn,” which seems a little out of place with Stapleton condemning the 2017 Las Vegas shooter to hell, but he has all of the right intentions in this anti-violence anthem.
Instrumentally, most songs are built off of an acoustic guitar, bass and drums, but there is lots of variation to be found. On “Cold,” full orchestration swoops into the mix at the chorus. Combined with Stapleton’s strained and anguished vocals, it makes for one of the more impactful tracks on the record.
Stapleton’s guitar work is unmatched as not only is it very technical but very catchy as well.
“Worry B Gone” is his most blues-esque song on the album, which tells a tale of Stapleton smoking his worries away and shows how laid-back and human he is.
There is not much negative to say, except for a couple of songs that seemed a little too dry. But ultimately this means nothing, because the bar was set so high by the rest of the record.
Stapleton manages to balance the fast-paced and slower songs perfectly, and the intricacy of each song keeps things from dragging. It is a lot of fun and emotional — one could tell that a lot of work was put into this album.
In the end, Stapleton manages to appeal to fans of country, southern rock, blues and singer songwriters without sacrificing the quality of his music. He is relatable, entertaining and this project is enjoyable the entire way through.
“Starting Over” is one of the better rock albums to come out in a long time, and Stapleton proves himself to be at the forefront of the southern scene.
Reviewer’s Favorite Songs: “Starting Over,” “Cold,” “Whiskey Sunrise”
Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “When I’m With You”
Caelan Chevrier is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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