There aren’t many mainstream artists who can get away with making the kind of records Chris Stapleton is able to make these days. Throughout the 14 tracks on Higher, Chris takes us through a great American songbook of his own with songs which suit his powerful, raspy soul-stirring vocal and stunning guitar prowess. This record, which he co-produced with wife Morgane Stapleton and longtime collaborator Dave Cobb clearly stands out as not only one of his best albums but also one of 2023’s best albums.
The 1-2 punch of “What Am I Gonna Do,” a stirring co-write with Miranda Lambert about figuring out a way to get over heartbreak while “South Dakota” is one of the moodiest pieces of fuzzy Blues that he’s ever released and could very well become a standard of the genre. Songs like “It Takes A Woman” and “Trust” recall classic Willie Nelson storytelling love songs with the former feeling like a long-lost classic being rediscovered while “Think I’m In Love With You” (a solo Stapleton creation before string arrangements were added) finds him stirring up emotions in new ways with that orchestral build joining forces to create a truly evocative moment on Higher.
“Loving You On My Mind” brings up the classic soul sound into country music with a record that’s just sexy as sexy can get. “White Horse,” the lead country radio single from this project, immediately stands out on its own with an atmospheric melodic build into the stunning country rock banger that it is. Speaking of atmosphere, the title track (“Higher”) is dripping in moody atmosphere. The song, which he wrote and demoed when first in Nashville, showcases just how talented Chris Stapleton has been from the get go. This song oozes sophistication and it’s easy to see why the track was selected to be the title track.
The beauty about the place that Chris Stapleton is in at this moment is that he’s clearly within his own lane in the modern country music tapestry with the ability to blend the genres which he’s always been suited to: blues, soul, country, bluegrass and southern rock. It’s all within a sound that is uniquely his own and while Chris says he tried to be other artists for a long time before he found himself, we should all be thankful we are in a time where Chris Stapleton was able to find himself and become a superstar because of it. Higher is proof that he’s destined to be around for a long time to come and it shows him at the top of his game.