Last year, Chris Stapleton hit the CMA stage with Justin Timberlake, turning a seemingly unlikely pairing into two slam-dunk performances that kicked his solo career into high gear. Once a respected cult figure who made a living writing songs for bigger artists, Stapleton has since become one of the genre's top-sellers.
It's fitting, then, that Stapleton's return to the CMA Awards found him sharing verses with another larger-than-life heavyweight. This time, he took the stage alongside Dwight Yoakam, delivering a faithful version of the Willie Nelson and Ray Charles duet "Seven Spanish Angels" with help from Stapleton's band – including Morgane Stapleton, Mickey Raphael, Robbie Turner and producer Dave Cobb – and a multi-piece brass section.
Yoakam's voice, which blanketed the country radio airwaves during the Eighties and early Nineties, still swoons and croons, sounding remarkably unchanged by years of continued touring. Even so, it was Male Vocalist of the Year winner Stapleton's roar that stole the show, with one ad libbed exclamation – "Well, well, well!" – giving the song an extra boost of momentum during its final chorus.