Chris Stapleton with Brent Cobb, and Marty Stuart at Austin360 Amphitheater, October 26, 2017
Review by Stacey Lovett / Photography by Stan Martin
Singer-songwriter Brent Cobb kicked off the evening with his Bluegrass-influenced southern soulfulness. He infuses himself in his songwriting – blending life experience with the deep roots and soul that hearkens back to an earlier honest simplicity in music. His authentic musical view surely set the strength and tone for the rest of the lineup that night and proved he is indeed a name to follow.
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Marty Stuart opened his set with a couple of his well-known hits of the early nineties before returning back to his earlier roots with the formative influences that shaped both him as an artist and his current album. With the help of his Fabulous Superlatives, Stuart gave the audience a musical feast of some pivotal roots of country and western music. The performance from the entire ensemble was indeed praise-worthy as they featured tunes off of Way Out West, along with many other homages to notable figures tied to this image such as Woody Guthrie, Marty Robbins & Grady Martin, and Merle Haggard. Stuart ended their set with a dedication to the night’s headliner who in his words was “rockin’ the world and keeping it real” – a solid compliment from an artist who has done the same paving the road before him and proving so in his own set.
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Just like his sudden emergence into the popular music scene, Tennessee troubadour, Chris Stapleton appeared on stage bathed in the neon lights in all of his talented glory backed by a solid group of musical talent which included his wife on backup vocals. He opened the set with “Might as Well Get Stoned,” captivating the audience with his soulful honesty from the first note and kept them on a high for the rest of the night. For someone of his stature and popularity in the contemporary music scene he takes a rather humble stance on stage, performing from the shadow beneath his white hat brim and mess of hair, letting the sheer power of his voice and guitar resonate out into the open air of the crowd. This lends to the allure of his artistry – a solid humble talent, true to the roots of his music, graced with triple threat talent vocally, instrumentally, and through his song writing skill. Stapleton presents a raw honesty in his music, such drawn from an earlier attitude of country songwriting and most definitely working for both the artists he’s written for and himself.
He played a variety of songs off of both of his albums, a handful of cover tunes and sneak peek into his new album, From a Room: Volume 2, which will be released this December. The choices of his covers shows his strong analysis of the timelessness that makes up these classic tunes. The emotion he evokes from these songs, like the self-proclaimed well written Willie Nelson favorite, “The Last Thing I Needed First Thing this Morning” shows how deep a level he analyzes every facet of a song, not just structurally, but in the emotion that they embody and channels that flawlessly to the listener. It’s this true understanding and full control of the artistry that creates a pure connection to the music. This is such a powerful quality that makes a true songwriter and is undoubtedly the reason behind his numerous awards and celebrated talent in the music industry.
His pure connection to his soulful, bluesy country sound reigned strong in “I Was Wrong,” leaving the audience in awe with his emotive guitar and crooning. This feeling he transmits – his vision of songs – definitely emits a sense of self, a deep soul, a beauty seen in his renditions. “Whiskey and You” is one such song he performed for the Austin crowd, tapping into a deep nerve, singing it through his own eyes with a simultaneous power and gentleness. He celebrates a multi-genre style melting soulful blues rock with outlaw country influence, all the while keeping the integrity of the songs emotion, belting such examples out in “Death Row” and his cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.”
Stapleton’s beautiful performance of “Traveller” was a voyage of emotion from a thinking man’s eyes – a trip from the soul to the mind. A screaming crowd welcomed “Fire Away” singing along with every word and ending out the song with the singer’s request of a chorus repeat to a sea of cell phone screens and lighters. He rounded out the show exciting the audience with an extended slow soulful intro to “Tennessee Whiskey” taking that opportunity to show a lighthearted, humorous side of himself as he introduced his fellow bandmates in a semi-biographical song form. He saved the sweetest introduction for last – that of the bandmate who he said complements him most- his accompanying vocals & fellow songwriting wife, Morgane. The love-filled moment was still reverberating as the band at last broke into the David Allen Coe/George Jones classic the audience had been eagerly awaiting. Chris and his band returned to the stage and continued the tenderness with two encore tunes, leaving the crowd with a deep satisfaction of being part of a night of true artistry.
The roots proved deep in Austin last night, showing a music city what, they too know and should never forget, is an important element to hold on to build the future with.