Chris Stapleton – Starting Over

Starting Over

Chris Stapleton

2020 – Country

Mercury Nasvhille

With well-written lyrics and simplistic instrumentals, Stapleton’s new album, Starting Over, is an intimate diary that manages to show beauty in the simplest things.

Until five years ago, before releasing his debut album, Traveler, Chris Stapleton spent almost a decade hiding in production rooms, composing and writing songs for the biggest names in the Country music at the time ― to name Kenny Chesney and Luke Bryan. However, his life changed when he released his debut, which was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year and won awards in Country categories in 2016. During this period, he ceased to be just a name among many in the credits of songs that nobody reads and became one of the greatest singers and composers of current Country music. Going against this tide of fame and success, Stapleton’s new album, Starting Over, is an intimate diary that manages to show beauty in the simplest things.

After a period with several large-scale collaborations and huge success ― his participation in Ed Sheeran’s “BLOW” alongside Bruno Mars, for example ― Chris got uncomfortable with his fame. To try to solve this and get his name out of the spotlight a little bit, he moved to Nashville and started recording at the Muscle Shoals. This whole decision to leave the glow of the flashes and go to a dirt road is reflected on Starting Over, which has only analogies and organic instruments and flies around a magical and enchanting simplicity that is transmitted by detailed, cautious and extremely well-written lyrics. Singing about sure love relationships, broken hearts, memories and yearning for the future through an unmistakable voice, Stapleton polishes his fourth studio album in a cautious and subtle way, which is also, above all, true.

The strongest point of Starting Over, without a doubt, is the composition of Stapleton, which reaches impressive levels of detail and storytelling, thus being able to paint cinematic images in our minds. The lines are like rich frames, the verses are like vivid scenes and a song by itself is timeless dramaturgy. One of the best on the album, “Maggie’s Song,” is the perfect example of this. Accompanied by simple, short, light and cheerful chords, Chris tells the story of a dog he had a while ago. He starts, “We moved out on the farm/And she followed those kids around,” and continues, “She’d take off like a bullet/Man, you should have seen her go.” It’s the perfect description of one of those sad dog movies that you cry at the end. In the same powerful way, in “Old Friends,” which varies between speech solos and a beautiful hook, he values the power of friendship and in the memorable and captivating “Starting Over” he shows the desire for change and hope. He sings, “Some nights might feel cold and dark/But nobody wins afraid of losin’.” All of these tracks have extremely beautiful lyrics.

Fortunately, Chris brings his writing skills to his romantic songs, making these the deepest and most exciting pieces of the entire project. “Cold,” which appears with notes on a grand piano, strings and mind-boggling guitar solos, shows Stapleton analyzing his relationship. With great and powerful vocals, he sings, “Oh, why did you get to be so cold?/Why did you get to go and cut me like a knife.” Of course, not at all times he uses this great skill for building sad songs. In the romantic ballad “When I’m with You,” although he presents a depressing outlook on his life (“I doubt anyone will remember/After I’m gone”), he finds a light in the dark and everything sounds soothing and good (“Like my skies are all blue/When I’m with you”). Finally, in the light and enjoyable “Joy of My Life” he reaches a point where love is the purest thing in the world and conveys this by its lyrics (“She’s sweet to me/Must be the luckiest man alive” and “Did I tell you, baby/You are the joy of my life”) and the instrumental, which consists only of a guitar that plays an even lighter arrangement.

Another strong point of Starting Over is the fact that it sounds purely country, without the luxuries and freshness of pop. Although Stapleton has played with some Pop singers in recent times, here he decides to put that aside, totally abandoning the use of synthesizers and other electronic and digital instruments, focusing entirely on an organic and timeless sound. Despite this, at no time does production sound weak or unimpressive. While “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice” works around simple, thick and catchy strings, “Arkansas” seems to have come out of a classic Country road album, thanks to Chris’ robust vocals, and “Whiskey Sunrise” seems to be the perfect soundtrack for a shooting scene between two cowboys in a Western movie. Almost all songs, although not so divergent, manage to sound different and have their specific elements of charm.

In the end, even the filler songs manage to sound good. The lowest point, probably, is “Hillbilly Blood,” which, in addition to having a relatively weak lyrics, has a monotone instrumental, making the whole track sound like something forgettable. In the same way, “Worry B Gone,” despite having a slightly more interesting instrumental, has a confused lyrics and “Watch You Burn,” despite having a relatively important lyrics about attacks and massacres, ends up being weak close to everything that Stapleton could do. At the end of the album, despite Chris’ soft guitar chords in “You Should Probably Leave” make the track look cheerful, it’s about the moment the couple can’t come to terms and decide to split up. He sings, “We both know where this is gonna lead/You want me to say that I want you to stay/So you should probably leave.” In the last track, everything seems a little uncertain. He went to Nashville to distance himself from fame, but in the lukewarm “Nashville, TN” he sings, “You tore down my memories/So you be you and I’ll be me/So long, Nashville, Tennessee.” Now, everything looks a little confusing but deadly interesting.

LISTEN ON: Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal

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