It is almost all in the vocal, really, honestly, truly: these are fine songs, Countryfolksoul tunes, and the playing on this album is kept minimal to classic stripped-back effect, and it allows the simple harp playing as on second track, Willie Nelson’s Last Thing Needed, First Thing This Morning [writers Nunn and Farar], to shine - a languid harmonica empathy to this lament about having you walk out on me, but my goodness, Stapleton’s soulful growl is such an emotive exacting singing, especially on a plaintive song like this.
Tracks like third Second One to Know amp it up but sustains the simplicity with crisply strummed electric guitar, and a crisp but brisk lead; fourth Up to No Good Livin’ is proper ol’ time pedal steel Haggard Country about drinking and all attendant bad things, People called me the Picasso of painting the town, before love prompts a conversion – a morality tale soaked in whiskey.
And then track 5, Either Way. This is beautiful. A deftly played acoustic guitar base to set the pace and softly rolling rhythm, Stapleton beginning his pained narrative of lost love, again, and then the amazing vocal rise to the main event where his voice fills a room with that pain and longing of the most believable, scorching singing. Hyperbole? Not a jot. This is followed by an electrified sweet electric guitar riff and a gorgeous soulful melody of I Was Wrong flipping the coin with expressions of sustained love, the guitar soloing over brooding bass a gutsy and sassy accompaniment. These two songs are sublime in the simplicity of their power, Stapleton’s evocative voice, and unadorned but perfect playing. Next Without Your Love is no shirker either, a pop-ballad whose melodic sensibilities are roughed-up delightfully yet again by the vocal velocity.