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Music Review: Stapleton’s solo CD takes road less travelled

This CD cover image released by Mercury Records Nashville shows "Traveller," by Chris Stapleton. (Mercury Records Nashville via AP)

Chris Stapleton, “Traveller” (Mercury Nashville)

Chris Stapleton owns a great, growling bluesman’s voice and a sensitive singer-songwriter’s heart. He’s written hits for Luke Bryan (“Drink a Beer”), Kenny Chesney (“Never Wanted Nothing More”), Darius Rucker (“Come Back Song”) and others, and he received several Grammy nominations as lead vocalist for the Steeldrivers, an acclaimed bluegrass band.

On his first solo album, Stapleton wrote or co-wrote 12 of the 14 songs, ranging from the hard-charging “Parachute” to the slow-cooked stone soul of “Sometimes I Cry,” and from the southern rock of “When The Stars Come Out,” to the achingly beautiful country ballad, “Whiskey and You.”

Stapleton ignores current radio and Music Row trends on “Traveller,” striving for something more personal. He heightens his individuality by choosing to work with a small studio band and playing most of the lead string instruments himself. He also co-produces the collection with Dave Cobb, known for bringing out the best in outside-the-mainstream artists such as Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson.

Stapleton joins like-minded singer-songwriters such as Miranda Lambert and Kasey Musgrave in showing country music a future that leaves the door open for singular stylists. Stapleton has a long future — and country music would benefit from embracing him as one of its own.

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