My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Single Review: Chris Stapleton – ‘Fire Away’

je8de9m27zycknkziw1qChris Stapleton shook up the world of country music when he won three CMA awards last fall. Since then he’s gone on to win two Grammys and his album Traveller has gone platinum, despite garnering very little support from country radio. This has caused many in the media to regard him as a “savior” of traditional country music, one that will bring about the fall of bro-country and finally allow the genre to reconnect with its roots. It’s an interesting theory, because Chris Stapleton is anything but a traditional country artist. His music is an interesting combination of country, blues and Southern rock. His success may very well change the direction of mainstream country but what direction it is remains to be seen. I’d have preferred a savior in the vein of a Randy Travis or a Dwight Yoakam, but given the current state of things, I’ll take what I can get.

Although Stapleton’s music is hard to categorize, it is an infinite improvement over the usual radio fodder. “Fire Away”, which he wrote with Danny Green, is the third single released from Traveller. The title track and “Nobody to Blame” both charted in the Top 20. Another track, “Tennessee Whiskey”, reached #1 due to sales generated after Stapleton’s CMA wins but it was not officially released as a radio single.

“Fire Away” is one of my favorite tracks from Traveller. Stapleton’s vocals are bluesy, but the song is kept rooted in the country genre by its simple lyrics, and simple production with just the right amount of steel guitar. It is not a happy song; the lyrics suggest a deteriorating relationship at the breaking point, with the protagonist bracing himself for some verbal attacks from his spouse or girlfriend. There are no handclaps, choruses, gratuitous references to cornfields, beer, trucks or anything else relating to mindless partying.

We don’t quite know what’s brought the couple in the song to this point, but we know that a confrontation is looming and it’s going to be uncomfortable. This sort of song used to be a staple at country radio but this kind of substance has been noticeably absent from the airwaves for several years now. Given the serious subject matter and radio’s lukewarm acceptance of Stapleton, I don’t expect this to be his breakthrough radio hit.

A recently released music video of the song takes a different interpretation that is not specifically referenced in the song’s lyrics; the protagonist’s wife is shown to suffer from bipolar disorder, and although he is willing to stand by her despite the difficult circumstances, he is unprepared for the tragic outcome that is looming.

Chris Stapleton may not be exactly what those who yearn for a return to traditionalism had in mind, but he is at least reintroducing songs of substance. Country music could do — and has done — much worse.

Grade: A

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9 responses to “Single Review: Chris Stapleton – ‘Fire Away’

  1. Ken March 4, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Stapleton’s voice would be easier to take if this song was a lot better. He’s not a great vocalist. A stylist or interpreter of lyrics appears to be his niche. The droning melody of the “Firrrrrrrrrrrrre Awayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” chorus was annoying to me by the second run through. Purely a southern rock/blues song. Steel guitar is the only country music element. AND COULD THEY HAVE MIXED THE DRUMS ANY LOUDER????

    Listened to this just once on youtube. Never again.

  2. luckyoldsun March 4, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    I don’t know if Stapleton is a “great” singer–I’d have to give it a few more years, a few more albums and vocal situations to be sure–but I can say he’s good–damn good! A bit of Bruce, a bit of Tritt and even a bit of Waits. And I think he’s more “accessible” than Jamie Johnson, the last “big thing” on the alternative front.
    I didn’t really catch the meaning of the song on one listen, but it sounds like a winner.
    And yes, they could have mixed the drums LOUDER!

    • Ken March 4, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      From your comments it’s obvious that have never been a real country music fan. And that explains all of the rest of your misguided and off-base comments. This Tritt song was not really country either which explains why you would like it.

      Loud drums have never been a characteristic of true country music. However they are the cornerstone of rock. Mix country and rock and you get a crock.

      • Michelle Aussie Country girl March 5, 2016 at 12:28 am

        I happen to like country rock and country pop it’s this country rap I can’t stand. I like some of Chris Stapleton’s songs. I also think that Mo Pitney has a huge future as a traditional country singer. The Travis Tritt song is also great in my opinion. Everyone has different tastes.

      • luckyoldsun March 5, 2016 at 1:48 am

        Hey, from some of the stuff that you like, some people might say YOU’RE not a real country music fan. C’est la vie.

        • luckyoldsun March 5, 2016 at 1:50 am

          The above comment was not directed at you, Michelle. The computer program does not always put things in the right place. lol.

  3. Occasional Hope March 5, 2016 at 8:18 am

    Could we please all try to be nice to one another?

  4. Leeann March 6, 2016 at 8:22 am

    I’m surprised to read that somebody would ay that Stapleton’s voice is not good. I can see him not being somebody’s taste, but suggesting that he’s a poor vocalist is baffling to me.

    Anyway, great review! I completely agree.

  5. AndyTheDrifter March 6, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    I don’t really understand how Stapleton is a traditional country savior, either – he’s more of a bluesy soul and Southern rock guy to me – but that being said, I’m glad there’s some music with soul and substance making it to the mainstream. Great song.

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