Chris Stapleton is bringing back real Country music

By Erin Maddrey

May 21, 2016

We heard his guitar before we heard his signature blues-country-rock fusion voice. The cold and the rain wouldn’t stop him from putting on a concert that can only be described as a religious experience.

Chris Stapleton performed to a sold-out crowd at the newly rebranded Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre on Thursday. The crowd, including NASCAR drivers in town for the All-Star and Coca-Cola 600 races, were transfixed by the man that has taken country music out of the bro-country sound primarily played on the radio.

A songwriter, singer, and guitar player, Stapleton started his show with “Nobody to Blame.” This song, a self-reflection about a messy break-up, won Song of the Year at the most recent ACM Awards. During his set, Stapleton played “Midnight Train to Memphis,” a song from his previous band, The Steeldrivers. Stapleton described this band as producing “uneasy listening music.” This song showcased the grit and gravel of his voice. The audience let out a collective “holy shit” as the song escalated and his vocals rose. My friend looked at me and said, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.” I think the rest of the audience agreed with this statement.

Photo by Daniel Coston

Stapleton, although he is just now receiving the recognition he deserves, is a music industry veteran. He’s written songs for the likes of George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, and even Adele. He’s fronted bands such as The Jomspon Brothers and the previously mentioned Steeldrivers before embarking on a solo career. His debut album, Traveller, dropped in May 2015. Although it experienced modest sales and garnered support from industry professionals, it took a duet with Justin Timberlake to show the masses what Stapleton was capable of.

At the CMA Awards in November 2015, the world learned about this powerhouse vocalist when Stapleton and Timberlake joined forces to sing “Tennessee Whiskey,” Stapleton’s cover of the David Allan Coe hit and Timberlake’s “Drink You Away.” Less than two weeks after that CMA appearance, where he also collected new artist and male vocalist trophies, Traveller sold nearly 250,000 additional copies and all remaining dates on his concert tour sold out in a matter of hours.

On a Thursday night in Charlotte, Stapleton, along with bassist J.T. Cure, drummer Derek Mixon, and the “beauty that can tame the beast… sometimes” singer and wife Morgane Stapleton gave a show that will be talked about by those in attendance for a long time.

When Stapleton sang “Traveller” the crowd sang it with and at him. “We got the mother fucking North Carolina singers on backup tonight,” exclaimed Stapleton as the crowd took over vocals for him.

Relationship goals were realized by everyone in the audience when Stapleton and his incredibly talented wife, Morgane, harmonized on “Fire Away,” “More of You,” and “You Are My Sunshine,” which Morgane took the lead on. She went toe-to-toe with her big voiced husband and reminded him, and all of us, that a strong man needs an equally strong woman.

Finishing his set, but before the encore, Stapleton sang his version of “Tennessee Whiskey.” He told the audience he may try to find some “North Carolina moonshine” for later. He left the stage, but only for a moment as the crowd was hungry for more and he didn’t want to make anyone wait.

“You could spend your time and money someplace else tonight,” Stapleton said as he thanked the crowd for showing up. “Now I’ll shut up and play some more music.”

Stapleton, his guitar, and a simple spotlight was how he performed “Whiskey and You,” a song about how a woman and alcohol can break a man down to his core. No one talked during this song. I’ve never seen a crowd so transfixed.

Photo by Daniel Coston

The crowd came out of this somber moment in an eruption of cheers as Stapleton began singing the first chorus of “Freebird” which then went into his song “The Devil Named Music.”

The last song of the encore was “Amanda,” a song originally made famous by Waylon Jennings. The haunting lyrics and the soaring vocals left the crowd wanting more. As the lights came up in the amphitheatre, the crowd ushered out singing and talking about the show. We came for a show, and Stapleton put on one hell of a show.

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