“She’s sweet to me
Must be the luckiest man alive
Did I tell you baby
You are the joy of my life”
This is the track, at least on the first play through, second time through the new Chris Stapleton album it’s got stiff competition, but the listening experience to this new LP is positively astounding, because they seem to be having so much FUN!
“Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy,” isn’t that what the Beatles sang? And they had enough money to buy anything. But the joy of playing…
Yes, you can’t buy the ability to play, you’ve got to pay your dues, and most people have no time for that, especially in today’s era of distractions, but when you listen to Chris Stapleton’s new album “Starting Over” you’ll lament you didn’t stick with it, that you cannot play, because as you’re listening that’s what you want to do most, JOIN IN!
How can Stapleton get it so right and everybody else get it so wrong? And believe me, Nashville knows, he’s not a secret, they give him credit, but still they pour out their bogus songs about families and church, about partying and trucks, and it’s like they’re not even in the same universe, listening to Chris Stapleton you feel like someone is actually home, that the lights are on, this is the experience boomers grew up with, that got them hooked, which millennials and Gen-Z have never experienced, it’s like the younger generations are playing checkers while Stapleton is playing chess.
Going to a show didn’t used to be about dancing, not even standing, never mind shooting pictures. You used to sit in your seat and as the performers played your mind would be set adrift, to a place only music could take you, it was the only place you could get it, the records and the concerts were connected, you got hooked on the wax and then you went to the gig to hear the music breathe, truly come alive, before there were helpers on hard drives, it was the genuine article, and I’d say it was enough, but it was MORE THAN ENOUGH!
Not that some are not trying. But somehow they don’t come close to Stapleton. Maybe it’s because he’s paid his dues. Get kicked around long enough, try to succeed and you don’t, you ultimately decide to either quit or do it your way, you’re sick of suits telling you how to do it, you know best, and when you listen to your inner tuning fork that’s when your work truly resonates with the audience, alone together.
There’s this roadhouse above Santa Barbara, at the crest of the mountain, called Cold Spring Tavern, I haven’t been there for forty years but I remember it well, this old stagecoach stop hadn’t changed in years, they served alcohol and you sat there listening to the music, back in an era before cell phones, when the music and your mood were all you had, it was magical. You’d find music at havens like this, they were isolated, yet connected. They had the same mind-set but it wasn’t all part of an ascension, a route to the big time, oftentimes this was as far as the acts got, playing covers, then again the stars were true heroes back then, everybody was on the left, selfishness was not self-satisfying, we felt like we were in it together, and the truth is we lost our way over the ensuing years but when you listen to “Starting Over” you’re immediately brought back there, to the starting point, but the music is not nostalgia, but part of a long continuum, it’s like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert.
I could review the record, talk about the quality of the songs, but that’s not what this is about, everything today is hit and run, but you drop the needle, push play on “Starting Over” and you’re immediately taken to a special place, where the shenanigans of this crazy world no longer apply, you’re in your own private bubble of satisfaction, your brain is set free, you relax, it’s better than any artificial stimulant, even natural ones, that’s the power of music.
I know, I know, this is not the music that’s happening today, where it’s about rhythm as opposed to melody, there’s no 808, no electronic sounds on the record, just real people playing real music, we might all have smartphones but despite all the technology we haven’t changed, we’re still the same, we’re still flesh and blood, we’re looking for humanity, and as much as streaming television delivers it, music plays on a higher plane, it’s a feeling, that is injected into your blood stream, it’s not cerebral, but primal.
I’ve been thinking about “See the Changes.” I was on the radio talking about the ’77 Crosby, Stills & Nash album, “CSN,” it was the comeback, the first studio record since “Deja Vu,” albeit without Neil, and they never did anything as good thereafter, even with Neil, and the most meaningful song was Stills’s “See the Changes.” A heartfelt, introspective number, Stills earlier delivered the progenitor, “4+20,” on the aforementioned “Deja Vu,” in these songs it was like Stills pulled back the cover of his identity and revealed his inner truth, his hopes and dreams, his reality, unfiltered, and that’s what resonated most, and that’s what Stapleton’s cover of John Fogerty’s “Joy of My Life” delivers, Stapleton is not playing to the audience, it’s not even a factor, the song and its performance are personal, essentially only written for one person, but we get to peek inside, and it’s more about the sound than the words anyway, where else do you get music this good, it seems like only producer Dave Cobb can deliver it, he’s captured the lost formula, which used to be available to all.
“I tiptoed in the room
I know you’ve got to have your rest”
“Joy of My Life” tiptoes into your life, it’s slow and dreamy, but you can’t brush it off, it stops your mind in its tracks, especially if you’re listening to it on a high quality stereo system, I’m not saying earbuds, headphones are no good, but if you shrink the sound down so small and reproduce it poorly you miss the essence, you may not get it at all, maybe that’s why today’s music is so unsatisfying, it’s made to sound good on the crummy reproduction systems we presently employ, but if you go back to the source, if you pull “Starting Over” up on a high quality service, like I am doing right now, on Amazon MusicHD, right in front of my Genelecs…I feel closer to Nashville than when I’ve been there, I feel like I’m sitting in the corner of the recording studio, making no noise, but my body is moving ever so subtly, I’m entranced by the music.