Chris Stapleton's backstory is something out of a country myth. His dad was a coal miner; the Nashville singer-songwriter, 37, who has written for everyone from Adele to Tim McGraw, was moved to record his solo debut, Traveller, after his death.
Given the inspiration, Traveller is an understandably solemn album, the work of a man gripped by life's impermanence. Whether Stapleton is dreaming into the starlit night or staring down a grave, undercurrents of regret, loss and resignation lurk around the corner. There's the glum "Daddy Doesn't Pray Anymore," which shrouds reflections about his father in the language of religious backsliding, while "Nobody to Blame" and "Devil Named Music" tally up life's losses with an impact deeper than the usual brokenhearted, beer-nursing country-radio fare.