Words By Max Stewart, Photo by Steve Mack
In a true one-two punch host / musical guest combo on Saturday Night Live last night, the iconic show featured SNL alum and ‘would-probably-still-be-funny-sleeping’ Will Ferrell alongside the best thing happening in mainstream country music, Chris Stapleton. Could it get better? Well, it did. Country music’s alternative savior and 2017 Grammy Album of the Year nominee Sturgill Simpson actually sat in with Stapleton during his two musical numbers of the show. For anyone who is a fan of authentic country music, this is like a modern-day Highwaymen collaboration a la Waylon and Cash.
Armed with dueling Telecasters, the duo performed “Hard Livin'” from Stapleton’s latest album, From A Room, Vol. 2. In addition to being a mighty fine songwriter, Stapleton has quite possibly the best voice in modern music, with equal parts grit, roar and soul. Simpson showed off his lead guitar acumen as they alternated vocal and guitar contributions while Stapleton’s wife Morgane Stapleton balanced out the harmonies.
Stapleton and Simpson also played “Midnight Train to Memphis” off of Stapleton’s latest record, a cut that was also performed by Stapleton’s previous band and bluegrass outfit, The Steeldrivers. The guitar licks and vocal swaps continued with this one, leaving country fans teased with how earth-shattering a co-headlining tour could be. Both songs performed also featured Nashville wizard producer Dave Cobb on acoustic guitar (Stapleton, Simpson, Jason Isbell, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band).
For folks that dig that REAL country twang, last night’s performance was truly something special.