A diverse array of artists from Miley Cyrus to Metallica honored the memory of Chris Cornell at the I Am the Highway tribute concert in Los Angeles last week. While the show was appropriately heavy on rock artists, it also highlighted two of country and Americana’s most powerful vocalists: Chris Stapleton and Brandi Carlile.
The pair joined up for “Hunger Strike,” the surprise 1991 hit by Temple of the Dog. That ad hoc group, led by Cornell and featuring a cameo by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, was itself a tribute to a fallen singer, Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood. At the Forum on Wednesday night, Stapleton and Carlile summoned the interplay between Cornell and Vedder, with Stapleton’s guttural baritone evoking the latter’s oft-imitated growl. It was Carlile, however, who took the performance to another level, howling “I’m going hungry” in the same pained vocal she employs in her ballad “The Joke.”
“I had the honor of paying tribute to my dear Seattle hero @chriscornell,” Carlile tweeted afterward. “I got to sing ‘Hunger Strike’ with @chrisstapleton and I felt that my split little Seattle grunge/Nashville heart was fully content for once. Can’t say enough about @templeofthedog. Thank you for everything.”
Stapleton also tackled the Cornell solo song “The Keeper,” while Carlile performed the Audioslave hit “Like a Stone” and oversaw the finale, a soaring “Black Hole Sun” with Seventies guitar hero Peter Frampton and Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil.
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Carlile and Stapleton will both return to L.A. in February for the 61st Grammy Awards. Carlile is up for six Grammys; Stapleton has three nominations.