It’s hard to imagine why Chris Stapleton would feel the need to start over just now. Five years ago, his debut solo album Traveller put him into permanent stardom (such as stardom ever is), and he’s only followed that with a mess of awards and a knack for gathering both critical and commercial support. Starting Over doesn’t do so much of what its title suggests as it builds on Stapleton’s solid foundation across rootsy music for another decisive step forward.
Stapleton might be a quintessentially country artist right now, but he’s become so by mixing Americana, rock, and even R&B; the trend continues. “Cold” won’t ever be his most innovative track, but its R&B sound allows his voice to come forward. Stapleton has powerful vocals, but his artistic delivery gives this track life, overcoming some of the cliched lyrics. As much as he can be a throwback artist, he’s looking back to old soul here rather than some of his more expected influences.
He offers another unusual take when he covers John Fogerty’s album cut “Joy of My Life”, an okay song giving some extra warmth here with Stapleton’s singing and Dave Cobb’s production. The album’s other two covers (aside from both being by the same artist) make sense. Stapleton’s honky-tonk shuffle of Guy Clark’s “Worry B Gone” resituates the album into country territory after some more rock-based material. He follows it immediately with a masterful version of Clark’s classic “Old Friends”. It’s almost hard to do this song wrong, but it would be a disservice to Stapleton not to note his gift in creating a version worthy of its lineage.