Chris Stapleton is just about one of the most critically acclaimed acts in country music right now, with tons of mainstream hits as a songwriter (Crash And Burn, Drink A Beer), 3 CMA nominations (Male, Album, New Artist), and a loyal following of fans who hail him as one of the greatest there is. Certainly, on vocals alone, he is practically unmatched; it’s no coincidence that Adele recorded one of his songs on her last album ‘21’ (If It Hadn’t Been Love). His soulful rasp, huge range and show-stopping power is honey to the ears, and he combines this with a classic, melancholic songcraft that recalls the best of country music, all the while he utilizes rock, soul, bluegrass, and blues for a postmodern nod to roots music.
‘Fire Away’ is a fan favorite, its long melismas working perfectly to bring peak energy to live shows as audience engagement reaches its height. Forgoing the usual party anthem or catchy pop chorus that others may use as their big moment, Chris strips that all away to the bare bones of music performance, allowing his voice to shine through and make this truly special. That’s why he’s become so highly rated in such a short amount of time – because he possesses true talent and conveys that in an honest, emotional, and strikingly simple way when he writes and sings. ‘Fire Away’ encompasses all of these things, and thus is the ideal song of his to spotlight.
A quiet ballad with plainly strummed electric guitar, reserved drums and the beautiful ache of the pedal steel, the arrangement is specifically designed to gently support the content of the song without ever overpowering. We are allowed, therefore, to feel the sheer weight of the romantic lyrics as Chris tells his love to lay all her troubles and frustrations on him, to let him take some of the burden. At a time when love songs are clichéd, generic or uninspired, Chris takes a slice of real life and true love as he offers to bear the brunt of his partner’s negative emotions so that she can feel better. What is more charming and heartfelt than that?
It’s incredible to me how someone as glaringly talented as Chris Stapleton doesn’t have the same mass appeal as the auto-tuned, cookie-cutter bros, but I am also glad that he seems to be attracting the ears of more and more people in the mainstream sphere. Sure, he is never likely to have a radio hit with this kind of material, but he doesn’t need to. He gets his payoffs from Thomas Rhett cuts; all he needs besides that is a stage, a guitar, and his wife Morgane on harmonies, and all those present will listen.
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