TVD Live Shots: Chris Stapleton and Aubrie Sellers at the Jefferson Theater, 6/20

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If you are a fan of country music and you aren’t familiar with Chris Stapleton, there is a void in your life that you may not have even realized was there. The Lexington, Kentucky native has written songs for some of the biggest names in country and beyond including Sheryl Crow and Adele. Having previously fronted the Grammy-nominated bluegrass band The SteelDrivers, Stapleton has broken out on his own and is making huge waves with his debut solo album, Traveller. In the midst of a string of sold-out dates, I was a traveller myself, venturing from DC, down to the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday to see him first-hand.

This is not your typical FM-country radio or CMT Awards fare. You won’t find songs of cold beer and hot women, and driving through the mud to get to the lake party or other standard bro-country themes. Stapleton is honest, real, and pure, and there is no pretension to what he does. It may have been a hot, rainy night in Charlottesville, but the warm glow of good music inside the venue made everything all right.

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The venue packed quickly, fans lining both floors of the theater seeking out a vantage point. The crowd was buzzing by the time Aubrie Sellers took the stage to open the show. Having paid her dues as a country music background singer, Aubrie seems poised to break out on her own in a big way. The daughter of country stars Lee Ann Womack and Jason Sellers, the twenty-four-year-old Sellers won over the audience in no time flat. Her commanding voice was damn near a dead ringer for her mother’s, with an extra tablespoon of attitude thrown into the mix.

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The lap steel/harmonica player and well, the rest of the band, were solid through the whole set and felt very incorporated into the music as opposed to a singer with some guys playing behind her. Not much else is known at this point about Aubrie Sellers and her music, but take my word for it—it won’t be that way for long. If her opening set in Charlottesville was any indication of what this young woman is capable of, you will be hearing a lot more of that beautiful voice.

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After a brief break, Chris Stapleton and his band took the stage easing into the set with his ode to bad breakups, “Nobody To Blame.” As the song crescendoed and gained momentum, the one thing that stood out about Stapleton is that voice. Whether it was the softer side of “Whiskey and You,” or the sheer power on the chorus of “Fire Away,” it is undeniable that there is something special about him.

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Accompanying Stapleton on vocals was his wife, Morgane Stapleton. The synergy between the pair was tangible, and the love for each other shone through with every song they sang together—often locking gazes or seemingly singing to each other on songs like “Traveller,” and “Tennessee Whiskey.” The latter, a classic done by both David Allan Coe and George Jones, made it clear that Chris Stapleton is not only one of the finest country performers around, but is able to morph into a soul singer in a cowboy hat. The soul exuded in that song alone would have made Sam Cooke say “Damn.”

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The whole set, from start to finish was a fun, moving experience. With more country artists like Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, and Whitey Morgan just to name a scant few on the rise, there just may be hope for true, honest country music.

They may not be selling out the amphitheaters on massive summer tours, but the heart and the talent of artists like these shine bright like a beacon. If you haven’t seen Chris Stapleton, you have to see him. Period. If you have already, then you already know that you’re going to again.

CHRIS STAPLETON

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AUBRIE SELLERS

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