Chris Stapleton’s ‘From A Room: Volume 2′ Songs Ranked for Radio
Chris Stapleton wasn’t supposed to release two albums in 2017, but his work with red-hot Nashville producer Dave Cobb led him to call his record label and make a special request.
The country star released From A Room: Volume 1 (which won the 2017 CMA Album of the Year Award) in May 2017, and on Dec. 1, Stapleton issued his highly anticipated From A Room: Volume 2. Both albums were recorded at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A.
Since 2015, Stapleton has been making a splash for a throwback country sound in a pop-country dominated market. And though he's written songs for Kenny Chesney and Luke Bryan, Stapleton doesn't purposely slant toward commercial appeal like some of the Nashville stars who cut his songs.
So how does From A Room: Volume 2 rank in the commercial pop-country world? Taste of Country spun Stapleton’s album and ranked the new songs in terms of commercial viability, from nine to one.
No. 9: "Scarecrow in the Garden"
Stapleton refers to this as his "farm and suicide song," a haunting tale about a farmer who is contemplating his existence. The imagery is rich throughout the song, with Stapleton painting lines like, “The fields ain’t what they once were, the rains just seem to flood / And I’ve been thinking ’bout that river, wondering how it turns to blood.”
According to Stapleton, “Scarecrow in the Garden” was the first song he recorded for the From A Room albums. He tells Taste of Country the song has been in his catalog for years and is a reflection of his “inner love of bluegrass murder ballads creeping out.”
Though Stapleton loves it, the nature of this song makes it a lot more creepy than commercial. It plays better at the local haunted house than on terrestrial radio.
No. 8: "Drunkard’s Prayer"
The title says it all. This barebones Stapleton song is as raw as the broken man in the storyline. "I hate the fact it takes a bottle to get me on my knees,” he sings. “And I hope He’ll forgive me for things you ain’t forgot; when I get drunk and talk to God.”
Though "Drunkard’s Prayer" is the most stripped-down song on the album, Stapleton’s incredibly emotive vocal lifts it to new heights. However, the length of the song (4:08) and lack of instrumentation makes it a tough play for radio.
No. 7: "Nobody’s Lonely Tonight"
Stapleton’s soul vibe is oozing into every part of this ballad. The simple instrumentation allows Stapleton’s vocal to breathe, and though Stapleton’s raspy tone battles with the enunciation of the main chorus lyrics, it doesn't take away from the emotion. The verse setup also allows the listener to know what’s going on before Stapleton starts belting those chorus lines.
“Sitting here / It’s closing time / You got your troubles and I bet they’re just like mine / Somebody told you goodbye / I know a way you can’t go wrong / Nobody leads nobody on / And nobody’s lonely tonight.”
However, the lack of audible chorus makes it difficult to sing along to, and the 40 second solo in the middle of the song screams, "Keep me off the radio!"
No. 6: "A Simple Song"
Anytime you can squeeze the word “cholesterol” into a song, it’s a good day.
“A Simple Song” does that and more, presenting real life-isms that don’t always make the cut in today’s country music. Lines such as “Call my momma like I should / She says daddy ain’t doin’ too good” and “Sister got laid off last fall / And I got high cholesterol” hit home in the simplest of ways.
Stapleton tells Taste of Country he wrote the song with his father-in-law, Darrell Hayes, and their situations at the time inspired the lyrics.
“It was basically just he and I taking things that were halfway going on with both of us at the time and rolling it up in a ball and putting it in a song," he says.
Another stripped-down work, “A Simple Song,” is perhaps the most honest song of the entire album. And though it also has light instrumentation, it ranks higher on the list because of the positive, sing-along friendly chorus.
No. 5: "Tryin’ to Untangle My Mind"
Stapleton is no stranger to the blues — in theme or sound — and the tortured soul in this song fits right in. “Well I do what I do and I don’t know why,” Stapleton sings, followed by the chorus line, "If you see me and I'm lonesome and stoned, so far down the devil's looking high, I’m just tryin’ to untangle my mind.”
Not much guesswork with what’s going on here and if it weren't for the drug reference, this three-minute song with a radio-friendly hook would be much higher on the list.
No. 4: "Midnight Train to Memphis"
When this song hits, its ringing guitar riff feels like an homage to Jimi Hendrix’s "Voodoo Child." One of the most electric-driven songs on the record, "Midnight Train to Memphis" digs back into the outlaw country feel, with Stapleton singing about trains and jail time. If the track sounds familiar, it’s because Stapleton also cut it with the Steeldrivers in 2008 on their debut self-titled album
Though it's a little off-center, "Midnight Train to Memphis" now fits in a radio format blown up by other new country artists such as Brothers Osborne, earning it a spot in the top five.
No. 3: "Hard Livin’"
The hardest hitting song after “Midnight Train to Memphis,” “Hard Livin’” explores a rough-ridin' honky tonk man’s journey into old age.
“I’d get drunk and shoot out the lights,” Stapleton sings. “I was known to get out of hand. … But this hard livin’ ain’t as easy as it used to be.”
A Southern rock anthem with an addictive not-too-hard, not-too-soft guitar riff, “Hard Livin’” once again throws Stapleton back in time with the outlaws. The track is also in the same sonic wheelhouse as Stapleton's prior single "Nobody to Blame," which reached No. 13 on Billboard's Hot Country chart. It's similar commercial viabilities land "Hard Livin'" at No. 3 on the list.
No. 2: "Millionaire"
“Millionaire” was originally recorded by Kevin Welch in 2002 on his album of the same name, but just like the Stapleton revived “Tennessee Whiskey,” this song has also received a new touch.
“I would always sit around the house playing that song to myself on a guitar,” Stapleton tells Taste of Country. “It’s fun to play. It’s fun to sing. It’s a great melody. It’s great lyrics, great everything. To me, that’s a great song and I just loved it, so it was time to do it.”
Stapleton has mastered the remake business and that makes "Millionaire" another good candidate for commercial success. According to Stapleton, "Tennessee Whiskey" wasn't even an official single. In reality, it was his performance at 2015 CMA Awards with Justin Timberlake that launched the song into pop culture. The remake is Stapleton's most played song on Spotify with nearly 100 million streams.
No. 1: "Friendship"
Stapleton’s second cover song on the album, “Friendship,” is a remake of an original by gospel/R&B singer Pops Staples. Stapleton tells Taste of Country that producer Dave Cobb brought the song to him, and it’s become a favorite for the two.
“I love the message of (‘Friendship’),” Stapleton says. “Much like the ‘Millionaire’ song, I just like what it says and it’s said in a way. … If you’re hanging out with your friend or you’ve got a longtime friend, it’s a good thing. I’ve never heard a song about friendship quite like that. I know I didn’t write it, but it’s probably my favorite song on the record.”
While the heartbreak theme is rooted deep in Stapleton’s From A Room albums, it’s refreshing to hear his voice singing such a positive message. Stapleton has proven that even if a song comes from outside writers, he emotively and vocally owns it. The beautiful guitar work on this track also solidifies its excellence.
Though "Friendship" and "Millionaire" are a tough comparison, we gave "Friendship" the edge since it's Stapleton's favorite.
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