Chris Stapleton Celebrates Traveller's Release With Plenty o' Whiskey in NYC

Robert Menzer for the Village Voice
Chris Stapleton at the Mercury Lounge, 5/5/15
"You know, we met Willie Nelson earlier, and she was wearing that T-shirt!"

Most people would be mortified to realize they're sporting the face of the person they're meeting across their front, but if anyone can pull it off, it's Morgane Stapleton. At the packed-as-hell May 5 Mercury Lounge show celebrating the release of husband Chris Stapleton's Traveller, his devastatingly good solo debut, Morgane — who lends her voice to Traveller's ballads, confessions, and numerous tributes to brown liquor — was still rocking Nelson's image by the time she hit the stage. The choice to do so was kind of perfect for the occasion, given Stapleton's undeniable twang and the timeless, effortless storytelling that makes him a deserving addition to the Outlaw Country club. (It didn't hurt that she was standing beside Mickey Raphael, the adept harmonica player from Nelson's band, whom Stapleton has tapped for his live shows.)

While Stapleton is an overnight sensation to the uninitiated, the singer-songwriter has long since established himself as a premier talent in Nashville, as both a performer with the SteelDrivers (Adele's a big fan) and a songwriter who has penned hits for Tim McGraw, Darius Rucker, Kenny Chesney, and other pop-country crooners. With Traveller, he's set to be a crossover success. If the line trailing down Houston from the door of the Mercury Lounge was any indication, it seems that Stapleton's fashionably late to his own big break.

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Reba McEntire's Got a Hungry Heart on Love Somebody

Photo by Jeremy Cowart
Reba McEntire may be a country queen, but she's no diva. She has a heart as big as her larger-than-life career. Her new album, Love Somebody, out April 14, is one of the best of her nearly four-decades-long career — certainly her strongest from the past two — and a triumphant return to form after a five-year gap since her last record.

"The overall theme is about love," the singer said of the new album to a small lunch group at Soho House on Monday. "Falling in, falling out, getting cheated on, cheated...I find songs that touch my heart because when I sing them, hopefully they'll touch your heart the way they've touched mine, if I did my job right."

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Exclusive Premiere: Kristin Andreassen Gives Folk a Brooklyn Spin with 'Lookout'

Photo: Laura Crostra
Kristin Andreassen
Kristin Andreassen's music speaks of a time when porches housed rocking chairs, not rampant consumer overspill. A time when "Ladies bathed before noon, after their three o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum," to quote that greatest of socio-folk novels, To Kill a Mockingbird. But this folk/bluegrass singer and musician — who celebrated the release of her latest album, Gondolier, last week — doesn't live in Maycomb, or Lake Charles, or any storied rural town. She lives in Park Slope, and has carved out her own slice of other-timely country life in Brooklyn.

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Sturgill Simpson: Boot-Stompin' at the Bowery Ballroom

Photo by Sachyn Mital
Sturgill Simpson sounds better at death's door than most artists do in fine fettle. "Full disclosure," the singer said, taking the stage clad in a plaid shirt and wielding his acoustic guitar: "We're all sick as shit, but we're going to give you our best anyway."

Their best was more than twenty songs, delivered with passion, perfection, and pathos, even when, at one point mid-show, that energy flagged ("Bear with me," Simpson requested. "I think I almost passed out.")

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A Tale of Two Countries: Sam Hunt & Sturgill Simpson Sell Out New York

Courtesy of
On the surface, Sam Hunt and Sturgill Simpson have only two things in common: They're both musically inclined dudes who hail from the South, and they've both sold out rooms in the city tonight (Irving Plaza and the Bowery Ballroom, respectively). One traded in his college football quarterback career for a guitar, popular country, and all the major-chord sing-alongs and truck talk that implies; one explores the steely fringe of the genre, doing right by the bluegrass, Americana, and folk that the coalminers in his family were listening to long before he was born.

As country continues to proliferate within both the mainstream (Miranda Lambert's killer Grammy performance, anyone?) and rock 'n' roll of an indier ilk, Hunt and Simpson are set to capitalize on the momentum built by the critically acclaimed albums they made in 2014. Here's a brief primer on two of country's most talked-about talents — by the end of it, you'll realize there's another thing that trumps any comparison between them: They're both going to be playing much, much bigger rooms the next time they head up north to play New York.

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Sufjan Stevens Reimagines the Rodeo With 'Round-Up' at BAM

Fringe, dust, rust, rope, leather, and ample helpings of red, white, and blue: All of these Americana adjectives and artifacts conjure a specific, classic image when the conversation loops around a rodeo. Men tipping cowboy hats, bucking, beautiful beasts, and a chorus of "YEE-HAW!"s are guaranteed to present themselves when a spectator moseys up to an arena or a fairground to watch one of these rough-stock extravaganzas in person. When rodeos are portrayed in movies or cartoons, the scenes are familiar — from the setting to the characters involved, right down to the spur in their step and the twang in their accent.

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Harmonizing Duo Kings Anchor Inaugural Big Gay Country Holiday

Jarrod McCabe
Kings, littorally.
I would date boys in high school and college who happened to play the guitar; then I realized, instead of dating them, I wanted to be them," says Steph Bishop, one-half of the poignantly pure-voiced duo Kings, accurately self-tagged as "queer country folkies" with "tight vocal harmonies, strings, stomps...intelligent, inventive songwriting, politics, humor."

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2014's Top Country Albums Prove the Music's Flourishing, Radio Be Damned

Categories: Country

Here's my imitation of executives in Nashville: "Let's put the one that sounds like a Lionel Richie ballad right after the tailgating song with the AC/DC power chords." This year's country-music crop boasts some marvels, but I've never found less to like in the albums pumped out of Music Row, where sequencing three strong tracks in a row is as long-gone a tradition as Nudie suits. Even the best big-biz album on this list, Miranda Lambert's Platinum, demands editing on the consumer end: You'll like a lot, and you'll skip more than you should have to.

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'Stand With Hillary' Is 2016's First Political Pop Smash

Categories: Country, Politics

In a Camarillo strip mall, where a toasty Quiznos breeze mingles with the funk of Jamba Juice, a nameless cowboy strums a guitar. He's thinking of a woman he knew years ago, way back in aught-twelve. She was a good woman, a loyal wife and a patriot, but her country let her down with negativity and gender-based attacks. But now it's 2016 (?) and the time has come to stand at her side. In a gently Auto-Tuned country twang, the cowboy begins his lonesome song.

This poignant country ballad has been bouncing around both wings of the political snarkosphere all day; this morning, it had a couple hundred views and zero comments; this evening, it has nearly 50,000 views and comments have been turned off (and probably not due to an embarrassment of praise).

It's already a minor viral phenomenon, but is this video important? Is it an intriguing preview of the 2016 election or a meaningless piece of cultural jetsam? I decided to find out.

Done. It's the second one. But let's laugh at it anyway.

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Children's Albums Are Bad for Children

Categories: Country

Recess Monkey: Bad for Kids
In Washington state, where I live, marijuana is legal and sold in special stores. This poses an interesting quandary for parents. Do you: (a) raise pot in the vein of beer when discussing it with your children, or (b) embrace the federal standard and advise that they abstain from it altogether, until its legality is the law of the land?

The answer is (c): Sit your toddler down in her car seat, and let Kacey Musgraves explain.

See also: Kacey Musgraves Makes Country Music You Can Use

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