From A Room: Volume 2

Chris Stapleton

Mercury Nashville Records, 2017

http://www.chrisstapleton.com

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/15/2018

When I wrote a review of Chris Stapleton’s From A Room: Volume 1 back in July of last year, the man had definitely gained popularity but wasn’t necessarily a household name. A few months later and suddenly he’s appearing on tracks with Justin Timberlake and performing on Saturday Night Live. Call me old fashioned, but those were usual tell-tale signs that someone had “made it,” as they say in the biz...

That’s why I found Stapleton’s decision to take all the songs recorded from a singular session in Nashville at Historic Studio A and split them up between two albums to be fascinating. As he’s gained traction amongst the casual record-buyer, the material he had been writing and releasing was almost a year prior to the release of From A Room: Volume 1. So with that in mind, these two records provide a snapshot of Stapleton’s mindset before he truly did hit it big. That’s not something we see so much anymore in the music industry.

If we are being perfectly honest, there’s nothing that particularly differentiates Volume 2 from Volume 1. That really should not come as a surprise considering the origins of the songs as mentioned earlier, but it does essentially sum up the record in this way: if you liked my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Volume 1(which I did) there’s no reason you also won’t enjoy Volume 2. The album clocks in at clean 32:19, so there’s no filler material or stretch of multiple songs where one thinks: “Well....I suppose he could have done without including these.”

Stapleton’s records to this point have enjoyed a stripped-down production style that’s refreshing in this day and age. His lyrical clarity is also appreciated. There’s a fine line with country music lyrics that can be incredibly difficult to navigate. Lean too far one direction and you’ve basically got a pop song; lean in the other, and it’s your Florida Georgia Line/Luke Bryan worn-out clichés about drinking and fishing.

But take a performance that Stapleton delivers on a track like “A Drunkard’s Prayer.” It’s just a man and his guitar pouring his soul out in a truly authentic way that doesn’t come across as corny or syrupy. “I hate the fact it takes a bottle to get me on my knees,” he sings, and there’s no glorification of boozing it up on a night out on the town with the boys there; there’s regret and pain.

The manner and method by which Stapleton decided on including certain tracks for Volume 1 as opposed to saving them for the future sequel would be a fascinating rabbit hole to go down. From A Room: Volume 2 follows similar beats as its predecessor; down to the placement on the track listing of the singles.

Were this one album, my criticism of the singles from Volume 2 would be far lessened, because while I do think they are good songs, their brethren on Volume 1 are truly astounding. Of the three singles released prior to this album’s release, “Scarecrow In The Garden is a flat-out knockout. It tells the story of the American Dream that existed once upon a time, but as so often was the case, the dream was elusive, and ended with sadness and violence. The song’s pleasant melody belies the underlying darkness.

So, when we come down to the final verdict, how exactly do I rule? My preferred method of taking this album in would be to have both volumes play back to back in the traditional double LP style. But, because this record exists in the way it does, separated by six months from its older brother I’m required by state law to dock Volume 2 a few points (Much in the way the points system on Whose Line Is It Anyway worked...).

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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