Just before the first chorus, the camera panned back, revealing a
man in a weathered leather cowboy hat and full, thick, long beard
hovering in the background. Mr. Bryan began to set the table for
the song s emotional reckoning: Don t feel like going home/So I m
And then came the ghost in the rear, singing in devastating harmony
with Mr. Bryan loud to his soft, agitated to his wounded, twangy to
his clean, scratchy to his smooth: ... sit right here/on the edge
of this pier/and watch the sunset disappear. If you listened to Mr.
Bryan sing that part alone, you d think that was a sad, lonely act.
But listen to his background singer alone, and it would sound
searching, frenzied, almost frightened.
That was Chris Stapleton singing behind Mr. Bryan. Mr. Stapleton
was one of the writers of that song, along with other songs that
cut to the emotional quick sung by Josh Turner ( Your Man ), Darius
Rucker ( Come Back Song ), Kenny Chesney ( Never Wanted Nothing
More ) and more.
And Mr. Stapleton has, for years, been a voice in search of a
spotlight. Once the frontman of the bluegrass band the SteelDrivers
Adele covered a SteelDrivers track, If It Hadn t Been For Love Mr.
Stapleton has put in work in a rock band, the Jompson Brothers, and
plenty of time in Nashville songwriting rooms.
Now it s his turn. After a false start with What Are You Listening
To?, a debut single that fizzled, Mr. Stapleton is arriving this
spring (May 5) with his debut solo album, Traveller (Mercury
Nashville). On this howling, earthy, spacious album, Mr. Stapleton
s voice is liquor-thick and three-drinks limber. That s not the
modern country model of manliness, which is preening and glossy,
but a reminder of the genre s haggard strain that long predates it.