Chris Stapleton impresses with his ‘hillbilly blues’

From A Room, Vol 1
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Artist: Chris Stapleton
Genre: Country
Label: Decca

"Country is just the blues played by hillbillies . . . It's all the blues for me." The grandees of the Country Music Association might feel the collars of their cowboy shirts chafe at such a thought, but Chris Stapleton, the poster boy (at 37) of last year's CMA Awards for Traveller, his platinum-selling debut, does as his Freddie King instincts tell him.

This earthy, lean, guitar-led nine-track album (Vol 2 follows later this year) mixes the influences that have guided Stapleton's writing, including southern rock, country blues and bar-room country.

As with his debut, the songs are culled from his 15 years as a major Nashville songwriter plus one old Willie Nelson favourite. The Last Thing I Needed, The First Thing This Morning is a gem, but there are others: Broken Halos; I Was Wrong; Them Stems; and the stark closer, Death Row. Impressive.