“Last Time I Saw You” by Chris Chitsey

Music

Balladic but not hesitant, the beat is a big source of emotional framing in the new single “Last Time I Saw You” by Chris Chitsey, and it’s not pushed forward by the percussion in this track alone. Chitsey himself is controlling much of the tempo with his execution here, and although I would call this player a singer/songwriter through and through, he’s got the essence of an old-school country crooner down in this single perfectly. This is only the third track I’ve heard from him, but I can say now that “Last Time I Saw You” is most definitely the most mature of the trio by far.

The fretwork accompanying Chris Chitsey in this song is a little bluesy but presented cleanly, as to prevent any of the spotlight from being split between the vocal and the instrumentation. I like that there’s some shade coming off of the strings directly conflicting with the exposed tone of the singing, developing a contrast that will come to define much of the lyrical center in “Last Time I Saw You.” It’s little details like this one that can make all of the difference in the world, especially when it comes to the modern strain of country music this player is offering us here.

As someone who considers themselves quite the connoisseur of music, I could never overvalue the importance of powerful tonality in a track like “Last Time I Saw You,” particularly with a player of this caliber taking the lead on vocals. Intricacies matter in all forms of music, but a country performance from the likes of Chris Chitsey demands his A-game on both sides of the compositional setup – here, the guitar is aching like we’re listening to a live show while the percussion gently nudges it forward, mostly at the discretion of Chitsey’s verse. Everything starts and ends with him, as it should in a proper solo outing like this one.

There’s no hold-back in this singer’s style, and he gives us everything he’s got in the first half of “Last Time I Saw You.” His passion doesn’t just give the verses a lot of stability, but it makes his harmonization with the guitar parts sound authentic and not mixed after the fact, which is becoming an unfortunate standard in a lot of indie country today.

There’s no instrumental juxtaposition, but instead, a cohesive sound you’d normally find only in the small venue performances given by undiscovered gems far from the chaos of contemporary Nashville.

I wasn’t expecting to be as intrigued with this latest release from Chris Chitsey as I admittedly am, and I think “Last Time I Saw You” is the kind of thoughtful ballad that he needed to add to his discography for legitimate critical approval. He’s showing himself to be a very well-rounded player, and while I do think he’s going to need another full-length album under his belt to make a splash with the establishment side of Nashville, the influence he stands to gain with a well-appointed single in “Last Time I Saw You” is reward enough for the intense desire he’s putting up in the studio.

Loretta Kim

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