On Tuesday, Chris Stapleton paid tribute to two of his bluegrass heroes, Darrell Scott and Tim O’Brien, with a scorching cover of their song “There Ain’t No Easy Way.”
Performing at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium for the Universal Music Group luncheon during Country Radio Seminar, Stapleton refers to Scott and O’Brien as “two of my favorite songwriters.” The pair released the original “There Ain’t No Easy Way” on their 2000 LP Real Time. “I like to do things in here that you’re never going to get anywhere else,” Stapleton says before he begins singing. “I probably haven’t played this song in 15 or 20 years.”
What follows is a dark, guttural solo rendition of the song, which had been a spritely if despondent duet with banjo and guitar in Scott and O’Brien’s hands (their version appears below). Accompanied by only his own acoustic guitar, Stapleton’s version is a vocal showcase, with his voice twisted into a raspy, mournful wail.
Stapleton, hot off appearing on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon to duet “Say Something” with Super Bowl LII halftime performer Justin Timberlake, is in the middle of a big week himself. The Kentucky native, who collected three trophies at last month’s Grammy awards, holds the top three spots on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart with From A Room: Volume 2, Traveller, and From A Room: Volume 1, making him only the third artist in history to do so.