Watch Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson Give A Great Rock Performance on SNL

I saw country music artists Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson perform on Saturday Night Live on the weekend, but I didn’t see a country music performance. What I saw was good old-fashioned Southern Rock, delivered with a spark and a fresh energy that, in a perfect world, would be part of a Southern Rock revival as a viable, legitimate sub-category of Rock Music. But alas, in the real world, these Rockers are left to languish in the fenced-off country music corral, since a Southern Rock revival isn’t quite on the horizon yet.

It’s another example of how the artificial labels we slap onto contemporary music do so much more harm than good.

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Chris Stapleton is a bonafide country star who somehow broke through the contemporary country music straitjacket of slick, bland pop stylings and nice hairdos on the strength of his rootsy grit and growly vocals. Sturgill Simpson takes the roots and the grit thing even further and because of that he remains an outsider to the country music scene. Together they represent a kind of orphan music that cries out for inclusion under Rock’s Big Tent, but so far those cries still seem to be going unheeded.

The fact that Stapleton was booked on the show long in advance and Simpson was a last-minute addition lends credence to the notion that these guys were looking to make a statement performance. And what a performance it was, check it out. “Midnight Train To Memphis” starts with a monster riff, and takes off from there. It may be a pretty traditional country lyric, but these two give ‘er the gas, trading power chords and licks and vocals that burn a lot hotter than any country music I’ve ever heard. Giddyup, let’s get that Southern Rock revival going, fellas.

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