By Annie Zaleski Boot.com
“This is unbelievable,” he said. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to think.”
The seasoned singer-songwriter was the only newcomer in the category, whose other nominees included Jason Aldean (Old Boots, New Dirt), Kasey Musgraves (Pageant Material), Little Big Town (Pain Killer) and Kenny Chesney (The Big Revival).
In a nod of respect, Stapleton made sure to bring up Traveller‘s producer, Dave Cobb, to say a few words, perhaps against his wishes.
“He told me he was going to do this to me, and I told him I was going to cuss a lot,” Cobb joked. “So I’m going to bypass that and say thank y’all for buying this record and supporting great art.”
Traveller debuted on the Top Country Albums chart at No. 2 and the Billboard 200 at No. 14.
See Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake's Stunning CMA Awards Duet
Big-voiced friends cover George Jones' "Tennessee Whiskey" and Timberlake's "Drink You Away"
BY MARISSA R. MOSS Rolling Stone Country
Justin Timberlake said it best: "Lawd, have mercy!" It was perhaps the evening's most-anticipated performance, and the Memphis-born R&B-vibed pop star and Artist of the Year winner Chris Stapleton positively slammed their rendition of the George Jones classic "Tennessee Whiskey" and Timberlake's "Drink You Away," accompanied by a dynamite brass band and Stapleton's wife Morgane on vocals
Timberlake's falsetto is tailor-made to slay the highest notes of the song that appeared on Stapleton's Traveller (which also won Album of the Year), and the band grooved the whole thing into a revelatory, take-us-to-church moment that left Florida Georgia Line — and, really, the rest of the evening's performers — in the unfortunate spot of having to follow that.
"Some people might want to burn me at the stake for it, or burn him at the stake for it," Stapleton told Rolling Stone Country of teaming up with Timberlake. "Who knows? But we're going to have a good time." The only thing burning down was the house.
Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton just stole the CMA Awards
Maeve McDermott, USA TODAY 10:10 p.m. EST November 4, 2015
Of all the all-star pairings during the CMA Awards this year—or any year—it'd be hard to top this one.
Justin Timberlake joined rising country star Chris Stapleton for a pairing for the ages, one that has us wishing JT would return to his Southern roots more often, and has us wanting much more from Stapleton in the future.
The two performers—and Tennessee natives, we must add—started by slaying Stapleton's Tennessee Whiskey, after the singer won New Artist of the Year earlier in the night.
"Can I put a little Memphis up in here?" Timberlake asked, before the duo moved onto a smoldering version of Timberlake's Drink You Away.
And this was all of us:
Lord have mercy!" Timberlake yelled as he finished the song.
What do we have to do to get these two to make a record together? Tell us. Please. We'll do anything.