During Wednesday night’s (Nov. 8) CMA Awards, Chris Stapleton further established his dominance in the male vocalist of the year category, picking up his seventh win in the past nine years. On Friday’s Grammy nominations announcement (Nov. 10), his song “White Horse” picked up a nomination for best country solo performance and best country song. Meanwhile, his collaboration with Carly Pearce, “We Don’t Fight Anymore,” earned a nod for best country duo/group performance.
Quite the way to usher in his new album, Higher, which was released on the same day.
Just eight years ago, Stapleton issued his debut solo album, 2015’s Traveller; a CMA Awards performance alongside Justin Timberlake that year introduced the world outside of Nashville to the show-stopping power of Stapleton’s voice and his swampy guitar grooves. With classic country sounds as its core tenet, that album was a mere sampling of the wider landscape of musical influences that Stapleton has explored in his subsequent four releases.
His previous album, Starting Over, had moments of looking outward, surveying the world around Stapleton on “Watch You Burn” and “Nashville, TN.” On the 14-song Higher, Stapleton largely explores variations on a succinct set of topics — love, lust and heartbreak — but his otherworldly voice, capable of both wall-shattering power and a velvety purr, gives a unique nuance to each.
Like Willie Nelson, Stapleton first found success as a writer of hits for other artists before seeing his own chart successes. Along the way, Stapleton has become a favored vocal partner for everyone from Adele and P!nk to Carly Pearce and Taylor Swift. His years fronting groups including bluesy-bluegrass outfit The SteelDrivers and rock group The Jompson Brothers have lent his headlining shows a freewheeling, jam-band feel.
Also like Nelson, Stapleton’s focus on the music, his excellence in constructing detailed stories and his uncanny ability to traverse musical landscapes have made him a timeless figure, and one that takes inspiration from a myriad of genres, as Stapleton weaves in country, soul, rock, and punk. On his new project, he also pulls in a couple of fellow singer-songwriters as co-writers, including Miranda Lambert and Carolyn Dawn Johnson.
Here, we take a track-by-track look at the songs on his new album Higher.
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