It’s fitting that Chris Stapleton and Maren Morris’ KeyArena tour stop coincides with the box-office dominance of Beauty & the Beast. The Beast has a soulfulness which eventually translates into sexiness, while Belle boasts an engine that’s just as attractive as her pretty little hood. You wouldn’t pick them for a pair until you realize they are, in fact, perfectly paired.
Such is the dynamic between Stapleton and Morris, who occupy opposite poles in country music’s ever-expanding tent. Stapleton’s got a smoky voice like vintage Gregg Allman and is hirsute to the point where he doesn’t need to buy a costume to dress as Chewbacca on Halloween. Meanwhile, Morris—five feet tall on stilts with shiny, brown hair—tacks far closer to Beyonce than Boeciphus on her smash-hit debut album, Hero. With a very public assist from Justin Timberlake, Stapleton experienced a meteoric rise from respected Nashville songwriter to star performer in 2015, and Morris was the Stapleton of 2016.
Purists who point to Stapleton and say, “Yeah, that’s what REAL coun-tray music sounds like,” might be apt to dismiss Morris’ R&B spin on the genre as a form of noise pollution. But as one of those purists who’s smitten with Hero, I bet she’ll win them over. Sassy and profane, Morris tends to scoff at love—unless it involves an old car (an ‘80s Mercedes is her rig of choice)—and her contribution to the lead track of X-rated satirist Wheeler Walker Jr.’s forthcoming sophomore album proves it’s no pose.
Last time Stapleton swung through town, he played the Showbox. KeyArena, suffice it to say, is a considerably larger venue. But both Stapleton and Morris are powerful vocalists whose compositions challenge them to reach the top of their range. If Squatch descends from the Key’s rafters whilst hanging from on a disco ball on the 28th, this ascendant duo will know they’ve reached yet another summit.