Chris Stapleton Credit: Lou Foglia

Plenty of flourishing Nashville songwriters have failed to translate the success they’ve had penning hits for artists into onstage popularity in their own right, but Chris Stapleton has delivered gold—actually, double platinum. After topping the charts with songs for the likes of Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, and Dierks Bentley, he joined their ranks with his 2015 debut album, Traveller (Mercury), a convincing collision of outlaw-country verities and raspy soul modes. His follow-up, From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury)—a second volume is due later this year—has not only proven he’s no fluke, debuting at number one on the Billboard country charts and number two on its Top 200, but fits his talents much better, its new batch of songs masterfully coproduced by Dave Cobb. The lean arrangements accent Stapleton’s scuffed wail, a deeply soulful instrument that’s more Memphis than Nashville. It also comes as no surprise that veteran Mike Henderson, who brought a blues streak to his own records back in the mid-90s, cowrote four of the album’s nine songs—it’s as if he’s helping this young buck fulfill a prophecy he couldn’t. Still, Stapleton’s his own man, whether essaying an inability to live down his past on the woozy steel-guitar-drenched waltz “Up to No Good Livin’” or asking his fleeting lover not to beat around the bush if she’s through with him on the stomping “Second to Know One.” On “I Was Wrong” he invokes the spirit of Albert King through both his probing lead guitar and prowling, slinky groove.   v

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