Album Review – Chris Stapleton’s ‘Traveller’ Is Fantastic Debut

Chris Stapleton Traveller

For years Chris Stapleton has been penning hits for some of the biggest and brightest names in Nashville. There’s no doubt he’s a talented songwriter, even though there are a couple of projects he’s been a part of that were not so good in my mind. Still the anticipation has been building for years for Stapleton to release his very own album. When he announced earlier this year that it’s finally arrived, I was one of the many excited to hear it. Then I found out Dave Cobb would be producing it and I knew it would be a must listen, as everything Cobb touches is phenomenal (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Jamey Johnson, Lucette, Rival Sons). These two great talents coming together on Traveller set my expectations high without a doubt. So I eagerly jumped into this highly anticipated album. And boy does it deliver big.

The album begins with the lead single and album title track, “Traveller.” Not only is it a great single choice, but also starts the album off quite well. The song is about the rambling man who loves to travel from place to place without a clue where he wants to go next. The bluesy and traditional production makes this song immensely likable and Stapleton’s voice is perfectly suited for the song. The next track, “Fire Away,” is an emotional heartbreak ballad. Stapleton’s voice absolutely blows me away on this song. Not only does he show great range, but great emotion too. The instrumentation arrangement fits the story of the song well, especially the lingering steel guitar in the background.

Stapleton slows it down with “Tennessee Whiskey,” a smooth love ballad. One of the greatest artists of all-time, George Jones recorded this song originally and I think The Possum is smiling down on Stapleton’s cover. It tells the story of man who had an alcohol problem until the love of his life came along and saved him. He compares her to the sweetness of strawberry wine and the warmth of brandy. Stapleton has a ton of charisma to pull off a sultry, slow song like this one. “Parachute” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Stapleton combines country and rock to produce a catchy song that makes you want to move your feet. The songwriting is good too, as it describes how a man will always be there for his woman, her parachute as he says. This song is simple, but it works brilliantly.

You should recognize the next song, “Whiskey and You,” as Tim McGraw originally recorded it on his Let It Go album in the early 2000s. Jason Eady also recorded this song on his 2014 album Daylight & Dark. I can say with confidence out of the three, Stapleton’s recording is the best. It’s not just because he wrote the song too. It’s the fact that Stapleton delivers the emotion of this song so much better than those two. He does this by stripping this song down completely and only using an acoustic guitar for instrumentation, allowing his voice to tell the story of the song. It’s raw and grips your attention from start to finish. Stapleton absolutely nails this song. The more up beat “Nobody To Blame” follows. It’s about a man who just broke up with his woman and she’s angry as hell at him. So she’s proceeded to destroy all of his stuff, which the man takes full responsibility for because he admits it was his fault. How refreshing is it to hear this in a song? It’s quite the opposite of a song like “Redneck Crazy.” Again I’m impressed by Stapleton’s vocals and the harmonica interludes throughout the song give it an extra edge to make it stand out.

The mandolin plays in (and throughout) “More of You,” a sweet love song that I’m sure will be popular in country dance halls and wedding receptions. Stapleton sings with his wife Morgane Stapleton, who has a beautiful voice of her own. To me it adds another layer of sentimentality to a song that’s already a fantastic love song. Everything about this song works together so damn well. “When The Stars Come Out” is a dreamy tune about heading out west to Los Angeles to chase dreams. It’s about how you look up at the stars and wonder if you’ll ever reach your goals. The songwriting is a little lighter on this than the rest of the album, but the pedal steel guitar and piano lurking throughout more than make up for it.

Just like “Whiskey and You,” “Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore” is a stripped down and emotional song. It’s about a man realizing his dad no longer prays anymore and paints the picture that his dad has given up hope. Halfway through the song when he’s not getting along with his dad, when he lays down at night he hears his dad praying for him. He realizes his dad does care, but by the end of the song his dad has died and realizes he’s finally walking with the Lord. I don’t think I can properly explain how great this song is and I suggest you listen for yourself. Tell me again why it took so long for an album from Stapleton? The rollicking “Might As Well Get Stoned” shifts the mood to uncaring resignation. The man in the song is alone and is out of whiskey, so he says screw it and gets stoned. The heavy steel guitar licks and Stapleton’s passionate cry in the bridge is the climax of the song and really grabs the listener’s attention. The majority of songs about getting stoned are dumb and completely pointless, but this is an exception. I like to think of this as a drinking song with the drinks being replaced with weed. And the man in the song is clearly smoking out of being despair, not joy. Stapleton put a fresh spin on a theme that is overwrought with clichés.

“Was It 26” feels like a perfect follow-up to “Might As Well Get Stoned.” The Charlie Daniels Band originally recorded the song and this is only one of two songs on the album that Stapleton didn’t help write. It’s about a man reflecting back on his wild year when he was 25 or 26. He can’t decide which year because they blend together in his mind. He doesn’t seem to regret it, but he would also like another crack at that age (whatever which one it is). It comes off as a warning to younger listeners and perhaps relatable for older listeners. Regardless it tells a great story. Oh and Stapleton’s voice is amazing once again. Stapleton sings about the crushing reality of being a musician traveling on the road all of the time in “The Devil Named Music.” He’s sometime drunk, stoned and most of all he feels alone. He misses his daughter and wife dearly, but he knows the devil that is music has his life. That’s one of the things we never think about as fans when listening to our favorite music. The amount of blood, sweat and tears that goes into making such great music is huge.

“Outlaw State of Mind” puts you in a…well outlaw state of mind. From the bellow of the guitar to the vocals it frames the theme of the song well. The harmonica solo in the bridge is fantastic too. Really this was song to show off the instrumentation that graces the album throughout, something I can certainly appreciate. The final song on Traveller is “Sometimes I Cry,” a song I could easily imagine being played in a smoky barroom in New Orleans. It’s a heartbreak song where Stapleton just lets it all hang out. He sings his ass off and the guitar play is equally impressive. Oh and this was recorded live in front of an audience. I mean what else can I say? This is another great track amongst many throughout this album.

The hype was high heading into Chris Stapleton’s album. Not only did he meet the hype, he surpassed it with Traveller. I don’t think I could ask anymore from a country album than what I hear on this album. It has everything a country music fan should want in their music. What impressed me the most out of all is Stapleton’s voice. Holy shit I did not expect him to blow me away so much vocally. He’s easily one of the best in country music today. The songwriting is top-notch, but we knew that already. The instrumentation and production is spotless, as once again Dave Cobb is in top form. I have no complaints with this album, as Stapleton is a visionary. Traveller is a must-own and is easily one of the top candidates for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.

Grade: 10/10

 

62 thoughts on “Album Review – Chris Stapleton’s ‘Traveller’ Is Fantastic Debut

  1. Raymond May 5, 2015 / 11:11 am

    I gave the album a try online man am I impressed why can’t he be mainstream I wish we could remove Cole Swindell and have Chris Stapleton we have the wrong C.S in country music

    Well looks like Mays off to a great start I’m curious to see if Jason Michael Caroll or Kelsea Ballerini will have some good songs. Ok well let’s see Jake Owen and The Band Perry should have new songs and I read a few lyrics on Jake Owens new song it looks interesting between that The Band Perry co-writes and Hunter Hayes is apparently also releasing a new song for May man the releasing albums and just everything is something I’m pumped so much far. I don’t think May will top April but it should top March.

    Josh speaking of albums have you yet to see the Ashley Monroe track listing or Gloriana’s both are pretty interesting

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott May 5, 2015 / 11:23 am

      He could get some radio play. “Traveller” has gotten adds the last couple of weeks. Stapleton’s trajectory reminds me a lot of Jamey Johnson’s career arc. Both wrote a lot for the biggest names, both were part of some less than reputable songs and both can sing traditional country in their sleep. Johnson got a little bit of radio play and I could see Stapleton doing the same. He’s built a lot of connections in Nashville through his songwriting. Eric Paslay is another similar story to Stapleton’s story.

      It’ll be interesting to see if May can keep up. I hope it does and I know for a fact there will be another album of the year candidate coming out in a couple of weeks. I received an early copy and I can’t reveal who.

      I did look at Monroe’s track listing and it’s definitely interesting. It looks like there could be some good ones in it. I’m most interested in “Weight of the Load,” which is a Vince Gill/Monroe written song. I have not seen the Gloriana track list. Link?

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      • Raymond May 5, 2015 / 11:33 am

        http://www.amazon.com/Three-Gloriana/dp/B00WS19PNW/ref=sr_1_55?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1430616002&sr=1-55&tag=viglink20248-20

        There’s the link it’s not bad but for Ashley’s it’s for me I’m most curious about I Buried Your Love Alive that just sounds real interesting and I’m excited for it I feel like with artists like Kacey her they will just put the album out even if radio won’t bite. Are you excited for Ashley’s album cause On To Something Good it’s actually grown on me a little bit

        But hey you did get your wish Mickey Guyton Better Than You Left Me is a Top 30 song…….. on MediaBase that is but it does count so there’s that

        One last news story Little Big Town is to perform Girl Crush with Faith Hill on the Billboard awards it’s funny of how last year LBT just had Sober an amazing song that ruined their momentum I know you like ZBB more but I’m glad LBT is here to stick and stay and well it always pleases me seeing Girl Crush on the Hot Country Songs over Take Your Time.

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        • Josh Schott May 5, 2015 / 11:46 am

          Yeah that Gloriana track list doesn’t look too bad. There are other albums I’m more excited for, but I’m curious to hear what Monroe will come out with on her sophomore album. That lead single hurt a little bit of my interest. Hopefully it’s just an anomaly on the album.

          I’m just hoping Mickey releases a full album by the end of the year. I have no hope in radio.

          Little Big Town is still just okay to me. They have yet to reach their full potential on an album. “Girl Crush” is good, but that’s the only song I like off of Pain Killer. Less pop rock, more country on the next album is what I want.

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      • Raymond May 5, 2015 / 11:58 am

        Well Mickey will need to be in it for the long haul like Canaan Smith

        Did you ever check out there Tornado or their album before that between the production and harmonies that’s why I love them but yeah Pain Killer was underwhelming but check out their songs like Sober and Shut Up Train you won’t be dissapointed

        What did you think of Maddie & Tae After The Storm Blows Thru

        I’m expecting Chris Janson though too take a whole though to break out if he does.

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        • Josh Schott May 5, 2015 / 12:54 pm

          I thought Maddie & Tae’s “After The Storm Blows Thru” was really great. It further confirmed my high stance on them as artists. It’s disappointing we have to wait until August to hear their debut album.

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      • Raymond May 5, 2015 / 1:08 pm

        Well considering how much great stuff we’ve heard with their songs I think the album is gonna be at least a 6/10 I’m so excited I’m still thinking the females in mainstream are the ones bringing the best I mean Reba’s album is fantastic I’m excited for Kacey Maddie & Tae Ashley Monroe if Carrie Underwood can release an album at the end of the year not to mention Mickey Guyton if she could ever break out Cam and for me myself Kelsea do you guys plan on covering A Thousand Horses debut album or Kelsea or Billy Curringtons when his drops.

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  2. SRM May 5, 2015 / 11:19 am

    I really, REALLY want to like this album, but it’s way too slow for me. I wish there had been more of “Parachute”-style drive and power on it. I can’t fault Stapleton’s craft or his voice (though his riffs can get on my nerves), but the back of this album nearly put me to sleep.

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    • Josh Schott May 5, 2015 / 11:27 am

      Well also the back half also has much longer songs than the beginning. I’ll admit that I thought the album ran a little longer than it should have. In my opinion an album’s ideal length is 10 songs and 12 should really be the max. He stretched it with 14, but then again it’s his debut album so I imagine he wanted to get as much as he could on it. That’s usually the case with a lot of debut albums, so I cut him a little slack.

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  3. Derek Hudgin May 5, 2015 / 12:43 pm

    I honestly haven’t heard Chris sing much before this album, but after listening to this album, damn he can sing! I agree with SRM that it dragged a bit and became a little less engaging as more and more slower songs piled onto one another. But Chris is a great songwriter, and chose some awesome songs to cut on this album.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. John-Alasdair MacAulay May 5, 2015 / 4:50 pm

    I’ve been waiting for this album for years, hopefully 2015 is the year that Stapleton get’s recognised for the talent that he possesses.

    Whilst I enjoyed the album, Parachute in particular, I’m gutted he didn’t add “You Should Probably Leave” to the track listing.

    It’s my favourite song of his and the emotion he and is wife pour into it are incredible.
    At least we have reasonably decent live recordings where we can still enjoy it as seen below.

    Enjoy. (a long time fan of this blog from Scotland)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Josh Schott May 5, 2015 / 5:03 pm

      Thanks for reading John! And thank you for the link!

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  5. Zack May 5, 2015 / 5:12 pm

    I’ve only had a chance to hear the first 7, however it is definitely some damn solid stuff, Chris nails every song out of the park with his voice and it shows. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lorenzo May 5, 2015 / 6:33 pm

    great review as always Josh. The album is amazing and Chris is an hell of a songwriter and an even better performer. but as I already pointed out on SavingCountryMusic, I’m kind of disappointed. I was really hoping to get some true country songs featuring a fiddle with this album. it’s my favourite instrument, it made me love country music and it can touch my heart everytime I can hear it play. Still, no fiddles playing here. is this a joke? you can’t hear it anywhere in today’s country (if I don’t go wrong ‘Crushin It’ and ‘She Don’t Love You’ are the only Top20 song that feature it. mainstream acts like Tim McGraw, Chris Young, Blake Shelton, Joe Nichols have totally forgotten it. even true country acts such as Kacey Musgraves, Jamey Johnson don’t use it anymore. what happened??
    still, great album and amazing music. I will be buying it.

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  7. Raymond May 5, 2015 / 7:25 pm

    Um Josh I just read your tweet about another album being in contention and I’m calling BS on that date are you sure it’s not May 12 cause I just checked Kelsea Ballerini is the only album coming out that week I mean what did you warm up to Kelsea I’m just confused.

    Do you guys plan on reviewing Kelsea Ballerinis debut album.

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    • Zack May 5, 2015 / 8:18 pm

      Well Raymond, it is most certainly NOT a mainstream album, and considering Josh already gave Love Me Like You Mean It a 0, I’m pretty sure that right there hurts it’s chances of “album of the year” material lol

      Liked by 1 person

      • Raymond May 5, 2015 / 8:33 pm

        Well no crap I still believe he should’ve kept it at a 2 or a 1 but I can’t find another Album Release for that day. I am gonna guess for Kelsea’s album the album will get a 3-5 out of 10 safe to say I’m looking forward too either Josh or Derek’s rant even if I like Kelsea more than others.

        Safe to say though in getting either Kelsea or Carrie to be the first solo female #1 on Billboard since Octobee 2012 I just can’t handle the fact that it’s been that long and with the exception of Raelynn and Haley Georgia which btw if I here Ridiculous I’m boycotting my radio station. But that’s beside the point I find Kelsea too be a really good singer and I’m excited though. If they can sing well like Carrie Kelsea Jana Mickey well then I want a #1 out of it.

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  8. ron12274 May 12, 2015 / 4:38 pm

    Looks like a solid #2 debut selling around 24,000 units

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    • Josh Schott May 12, 2015 / 4:59 pm

      That’s pretty good. If only it had come out a week before Zac Brown Band’s album. It would have gotten #1 status.

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