Chris Stapleton – “Fire Away” (Singles Going Steady)

Chris Stapleton succeeds at making one of those tracks you swore you already knew, but just forgot the words to. Nothing fancy, but that’s the point.

Chris Ingalls: This is certainly miles ahead of the standard bro-country that pollutes the American music landscape, and although I’m not really in love with this, there’s plenty to appreciate here. Stapleton’s got a hell of a singing voice, and there’s an authenticity in the arrangement that’s easy to like. Sort of an alt-country Bob Seger, maybe? The video is… well, it sort of reminds me of one of the more serious dramatic arcs of Friday Night Lights with all that Texas quasi-hipster marital discourse, but as evidenced by the URL at the end of the video, it’s actually a serious plea for mental health illness awareness, so I give everyone involved points for bringing this issue to light. [7/10]

Emmanuel Elone: There isn’t too much to separate from your run-of-the-mill country rock. The song follows the basic verse-chorus-bridge structure and the slow, heavy drums fill out the sliding electric guitar riffs. Stapleton’s voice is rough yet sweet, like a shot of good whiskey. “Fire Away” isn’t bringing anything new to the table, but it does recapture the essential elements that makes country and rock music so good. [6/10]

Steve Horowitz: Wow, I didn’t see that coming. If you like the song, stay away from the video. It’s got an important message, maybe — but the song is more ambiguous and better as a result. Stapleton succeeds at making one of those tracks you swore you already knew, but just forgot the words to. Nothing fancy, but that’s the point. You take a chance on love. You can get hurt. But sometimes you just have to take the risk — sung with a twang. [7/10]

Pryor Stroud: Curling his toes around a tumbleweed guitar riff and a woeful, cross-to-bear melodic lament, Chris Stapleton flexes his whisky-breathed rasp to its sacrificial zenith in “Fire Away”, heaving the chorus injunction up to a note that persists and extends and threatens to collapse into itself, before leveling out and steadily dropping its guard, leaving the singer stripped of his thick-skin as the two syllables of “away” relinquish themselves to smoke. This isn’t a bullet delivered; it’s an offering of high-powered ammunition, a gun loaded and handed over to the lover who can do the most damage with it. Considered holistically, the track, for all its gusto and heart-on-its-tattered-tee-shirt-sleeve sincerity, remains a devoutly middle-of-the-road deep country ballad, an unabashed “blue-jean serenade” built on convention, but it’s speckled with some bluesy sonic play that keeps it from sounding like a self-righteous act of backroad martyrdom. [6/10]

Chad Miller: Lacks personality and depth, and there aren’t enough redeeming qualities to make up for this. The melody isn’t anything special either. Easily forgettable. [5/10]

SCORE: 6.20