Entertainer of the Year nominee Chris Stapleton brought out five-time CMA winner Patty Loveless for a haunting collaboration on “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” at the 2022 CMA Awards. The performance aimed to lift up the state of Kentucky, where both singers were raised, and highlight its historic struggles with flooding earlier this year.
The performance began quietly, with only hushed instrumentation before Loveless’ powerful voice took hold. As the song swelled volume, so did the urgency in her voice, giving the narrative about the economic struggles and human costs of coal mining communities a heavy, mournful feeling. Stapleton howled and growled here and there, but mostly ceded the spotlight to a true country legend.
Loveless, who largely retired from performing 13 years ago, originally recorded Darrell Scott’s “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” for her 2001 album Mountain Soul, a stripped-down album that emphasized her bluegrass and old-time roots. Loveless and Stapleton previously sang the song together in October at the Kentucky Rising concert, a fundraising event in Lexington for flood relief.
Stapleton was a huge winner at the 2021 CMA Awards. He started the 2022 awards as a multiple nominee and went on to win Male Vocalist of the Year. Currently, his only remaining live show for 2022 is set for Nov. 12 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta with Miranda Lambert, Dwight Yoakam, and Katie Pruitt also on the bill. In January, he’s set to play Luke Bryan’s Crash My Playa in Cancun, Mexico.
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