Arrangements – for guitar, bass and drums, with touches of steel guitar and harmonica – are spare and lean.
Even “Second One to Know,” a fierce rocker with rhythm guitar that attacks like John Henry’s hammer, still leaves space for Stapleton’s vocals to match it, blow for blow.
Even more potent is “Either Way,” a ballad set to acoustic guitar that goes from broken whisper to chilling holler, with extravagantly curled phrasing informed, one imagines, by hours spent watching smoke plumes rise toward the ceiling.
You could imagine B.B. King singing “Death Row” or Freddie King slashing through “I Was Wrong” with his jagged Texas guitar, which Stapleton impressively echoes.
“Them Stems” rues a shortfall of weed, a favorite Stapleton topic – few sing the word “Stoned” more convincingly.
Aside from a cover of the Willie Nelson fave “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning,” the songs are Stapleton co-writes, plain-spoken sometimes to a fault.