While Chris Stapleton, former guitarist and lead singer for The Steeldrivers, continued his march through the country music institutions last night in Las Vegas, his dominance at the Academy of Country Music awards last night also included spots for several of his bluegrass buddies.
The 2016 Song of the Year award went to Chris for Nobody To Blame, one he wrote with Barry Bales and Ronnie Bowman, who accompanied him on stage to accept their trophies. The bluegrass world knows Barry as the long time bassist with Alison Krauss & Union Station and as a top bluegrass producer, and Ronnie from his work with Lonesome River Band, Band of Ruhks, and his own solo projects.
Chris’ success on country radio this past year has been warmly embraced by Nashville’s bluegrass community, with whom he has socialized – and written – since first hitting with The Steeldrivers in 2008. Of course, lovers of more traditional country music are also delighted to see him topping the charts, hoping that it presages another “real country” movement like we saw when Ricky Skaggs, Randy Travis, and Alan Jackson were big in the 1980s and ’90s.
Stapleton also took home ACM awards for Male Vocalist and New Male Vocalist of the Year, plus Album of the Year for Traveller.
No matter how big he gets, we’ll always remember him as a bluegrass boy.