5 Of My Favorite Stripped-Back Performances From 2023 That Proved Why Every Great Artist Sounds Better Unplugged

Morgan Wallen CWG country music
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I’ve always strongly believed that the best artists, people who are truly talented and having something to say, sound better with a simple, stripped-back production.

And that’s mostly because it allows the song, and the artists voice, to really shine. It takes away all of the production and filler, and leaves us with the real meat of the song, so to speak.

A song will sink or swim in that kind of setting, and is always a dead giveaway in terms of the true quality of the music.

Of course, I love a fully-produced song with all of the bells and whistles as much as anybody else when it’s done right, but there’s something so magical about a good acoustic performance that can stop you in your tracks and change your entire perspective on a song and what it means.

In 2023, it wasn’t uncommon for some country artists to follow-up a single release or an entire album release in some cases, with fully acoustic videos or at the very least, live performance videos.

As a music lover, I appreciate and love everything about that, and hope we’ll continue to see similar videos and live performances next year.

And in the spirit of great acoustic videos, I wanted to share five of my favorite’s from this year that have stood the test of time and never fail to hit me where it hurts.

Of course, there were plenty more I didn’t include her for brevity’s sake, but these were some that I keep going back to even months later in some cases.

“Halloween” — Morgan Wade

If there’s any young artist who absolutely shines when it comes to performing acoustically, Morgan Wade nails it every single time.

She released a hauntingly beautiful ballad called “Halloween” this fall, which focuses on how the ghost of her ex (and the memories they shared) still follows her around.

The stunning song has a pretty simple production to begin with, but I cannot get enough of this version and hope she’s still planning to put out the acoustic renditions of songs from her sophomore studio album Psychopath she had mentioned a little while back, because it’s magical and captivating to hear her in a setting like this.

“Me + All Your Reasons” — Morgan Wallen

Morgan rolled out his One Record At A Time Sessions series upon the released of his behemoth of a 36-song album One Thing At A Time, and in my very humble opinion, these are all better than what was created in the studio.

That’s not meant to be a slight to Morgan or any of the producers on this album, but his biggest asset has always been his vocal ability, and you can hear why when you listen to him sing in these acoustic sessions.

Considering this was also one of my favorite songs on the record, the acoustic  live performance definitely deserved a spot on this list too.

“Another Leaf” — Charles Wesley Godwin

From his recently released debut studio album Family Ties, this isn’t technically a fully-acoustic performance, though it has that similar feel with Charles Wesley Godwin on the acoustic guitar.

Filmed at Echo Mountain recording studios on Asheville, North Carolina, it’s a transcendent performance by CWG and his kickass band the Allegheny High.

“Grief is Only Love” — Stephen Wilson Jr.

Another one of my favorite albums released this year, Stephen Wilson Jr. delivered an incredible debut with Søn Of Dad.

One of the standout songs on the tracklist “Grief is Only Love” finds Wilson reflecting on the sadness and pain that comes along with loss… and of course, the acoustic rendition shows off his unique voice and sincere delivery in a way that can only be described as perfection.

“Just Breathe” — Eddie Vedder & Lukas Nelson

The talent level in this one acoustic video is unreal. Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder teamed up with Lukas Nelson during the tribute show in honor Leslie Jordan to sing “Just Breathe.”

“Just Breathe” was originally released in 2009 as the second single from Pearl Jam’s ninth studio album Backspacer, and Lukas previously recorded an incredible cover of the song with his father Willie Nelson on Willie’s 2012 Heroes album.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now, I need a studio version of this now about like I need oxygen in my lungs… it’s simply stunning:

What were some of your favorite acoustic or live performance videos released this year?

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