Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Mercury Nashville B0027408-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Overall Enjoyment

Chris Stapleton has written six No.1 hits for other singers, and more than 150 of his songs have appeared on albums by musicians as diverse as Adele, George Strait, and Tim McGraw. Stapleton is no Music City hack but a skilled singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose knowledge and command of Southern music idioms runs deep. Last year’s From a Room: Volume 1 owed as much to Gregg Allman as to George Jones, and was well played and refreshingly unslick. The Country Music Association awarded it Album of the Year.

From a Room: Volume 2 has the same roots as its predecessor. Stapleton recorded both albums in RCA’s Studio A in Nashville, where Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, the Beach Boys, and many other musicians made hits over the years. He opens Volume 2 with “Millionaire,” by another Nashville songwriter, Kevin Welch. Stapleton’s singing brings to the song an edge of Southern soul, and his guitar lines are elegant and sharp.

Chris Stapleton

Stapleton can sing a line like “I’d get drunk and shoot out the lights,” from “Hard Livin’,” and make it sound as if he’s just made it up. It doesn’t sound recycled, and neither do his guitar riffs, which are fresh and alive. “Scarecrow in the Garden” shows how deep his cultural and musical roots go. Stapleton reaches back to a time when the Europeans who settled in the South arrived “from Northern Ireland / Searching for the free man’s ground,” and expresses pride in his heritage without pandering or appealing to any easy populist message.

“Nobody’s Lonely Tonight” contains as much Muscle Shoals soul as Nashville country, and Singleton’s smoky vocal is accompanied by beautiful guitar arpeggios and a tasteful, blues-drenched solo. “Tryin’ to Untangle My Mind” has a Southern-rock pedigree that reminds me of some of Warren Haynes’s tunes for the Allman Brothers Band’s later albums, but Stapleton gives it a more country flavor that helps underline how much bands like the Allmans owe to that tradition.

Stapleton rocks hard in “Midnight Train to Memphis,” overdriven guitars barking behind him, but some of the most affecting songs in Volume 2 are his acoustic ballads. “A Simple Song” celebrates the pleasures of “the kids and the dogs and you and me,” and in “Drunkard’s Prayer” he captures the frustration, confusion, and spiritual desolation of the alcoholic’s life. When he sings “I wish I could go to church but I’m too ashamed of me,” it’s heartbreaking -- Stapleton fully inhabits the character in whose persona he sings and lets you feel his pain.

Chris Stapleton

Stapleton’s wife, Morgane Stapleton, herself a respected songwriter, sings harmony vocals on most tracks, and contributes something to each one. Guitarist Dave Cobb, bassist J.T. Cure, and drummer Derek Mixon never call attention to themselves but bring the right touch to every song. Cobb and Stapleton produced the album; the engineering, by Vance Powell, is as refreshingly straightforward and honest as the music.

Chris Stapleton’s music shows the influence of country music’s greats, including Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson, but I’m willing to bet he’s listened to soul singers Solomon Burke and Wilson Pickett, too. From a Room: Volume 2 contains diverse music styles and brings them seamlessly together. It’s just over 30 minutes long; I wanted more. Good thing there’s Volume 1.

. . . Joseph Taylor