It’s 2021, and much as it was about 22 years ago, the crossover country singer is once again king. Forget the pure, traditionalist styles that once dominated the charts – if you’re playing to what the audience wants in modern times, you’ve got to have a multidimensional musical profile, which is precisely what Corey Stapleton & The Pretty Pirates have in their new single “Western Son.”
Rather than giving us the simplistic country anthem that this song could have been, Stapleton and his band make a point of embellishing the hook with a moderate pop influence and providing the guitar parts just enough sizzle to really stoke the flames when they need a little extra kindling. While this is only the first track in the band’s discography, I don’t think we need much more than its four-minute running time to determine whether or not we’ve got a real winner on our hands. Stapleton isn’t following the beat of anyone else’s drum in this performance, but instead using his natural style and unforced charms to enlighten us on what smooth crossover country can sound like when it’s coming straight from the heart of a poet.
There’s undisputedly a hearty folk-rock influence in the structure of this song, but it’s not so abundantly obvious in the composition of the melodies as to make the hook sound hipster-ish. One of the more annoying elements of any indie country track I’ve been listening to lately has been the frilly mixes; from the strings to the beat and right on back to the vocal, Stapleton’s peers seem to have a strange fascination with indulgence that he just doesn’t have in “Western Son.” He rejects the sort of filler some of his contemporaries would just as soon write an entire album (let alone a song) around, and instead brings a calmness behind his delivery that could be considered one of the brighter parts of his résumé were he not already as brilliant a performer as he is now. The Pretty Pirates aren’t slackers either, and I think that with a little more time and space to grow into this sound, they’re going to become one of the more unstoppable units in or outside of their scene.
Corey Stapleton has a vocal that would be more than enough to carry a track, but rather than assembling a single that centers on his singing abilities alone, he’s bringing a lot more thunder to the studio in “Western Son” and demonstrating how much he really does have to give. With The Pretty Pirates backing him up, this heartfelt storyteller is able to practice his craft much in the way of the legendary troubadours to have come before him, and while he’s facing a lot of competition breaking into the mainstream country scene right now, I like his chances after listening to what he can do in “Western Son.” This is honest to goodness quality country, and it teases a potential that no true critic would be able to ignore.