With a retooled road band that, for this performance, swapped out Waylon Jennings’ pedal steel guitarist Robby Turner for Willie Nelson’s harmonica player, Chris Stapleton stopped by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert last night to perform “Nobody to Blame.” Lean and mean, the Traveller track spins the story of a guilty drunk whose vices have left him broke and deserted, with no easy scapegoats in sight. Stapleton attacked the song with appropriate firepower during the Colbert appearance, his voice blasting twin barrels of Kentucky twang and roots-rock rasp while his group — including special guest Mickey Raphael and wife Morgane Stapleton — kicked up outlaw-worthy dust in the background.
“I like songs that make me feel tough. Like ‘Back in Black.’ You want to hear it again and get in a fight,” Stapleton told Rolling Stone Country in May, the same month Traveller made a surprise debut at Number Two on the country charts. Despite sporting a raw, roughhewn sound that was more in line with Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music than modern country, Traveller went on to become an industry-wide favorite, netting Stapleton three CMA nominations last week.
The added attention has turned Stapleton’s current tour — including the Colbert gig — into a well-deserved victory lap, capping off a busy year with headlining shows, opening slots with Warren Haynes and, come October, a homecoming show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium with Jason Isbell.
Still in its first month, Stephen Colbert’s Late Show has already welcomed its share of country guests, including Willie Nelson and Toby Keith. The twang continues next week, when Don Henley — now knee-deep in promotional appearances for his countryfied solo album, Cass County — visits the show on Monday.