CHRIS STAPLETON : STARTING OVER
Label : Mercury Nashville
Release Date : November 13, 2020
Length : 53:40
Review (AllMusic) : As an album title, Starting Over can't help but carry connotations of an artistic rebirth, but three or four albums into his solo stardom, Chris Stapleton is in no position to rip it up and start again. Stapleton found his footing with 2015's Traveller and he's spent the years since digging deeper into his burnished groove, tying the binds between classic country, classic rock, and classic soul even tighter. A new beginning isn't in the cards for a singer/songwriter who has styled himself as an old-fashioned troubadour, an outlaw with a heart of gold singing sweet love songs as often as he kicks up dust. He's a traveler on a long road, not quite forging into undiscovered country as much as finding fresh routes through familiar terrain. Working once again with producer Dave Cobb, Stapleton underscores rootsy continuity not just with his own catalog, but with his idols. He takes the time to salute the pioneers who came before him by covering two Guy Clark songs here ("Worry B Gone," "Old Friends"), along with a deep John Fogerty solo cut that pairs quite nicely with the swampy choogle of the original "Devil Always Made Me Think Twice." The biggest nod to the past arrives through a couple of key members of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers joining the fold: Benmont Tench is on eight of the album's 14 songs, while Mike Campbell co-wrote two of the record's highlights, the funky vamp "Watch You Burn" and the rampaging "Arkansas." The former Heartbreakers are excellent foils for Stapleton and they also emphasize that he's a bit like Petty in how he revives sounds of the past for the present and in how he turns out reliably sturdy albums. Stapleton could use a bit of Petty's flair - there's not a lot of humor here, nor are there any flirtations with modern sounds - but his straight-ahead style nevertheless satisfies on Starting Over.