Chris Stapleton has been a duet darling of the CMA Awards since his bar-raising performance of “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Drink You Away” with Justin Timberlake in 2015. At the 2019 show, Chris teamed with Pink for a rousing rendition of “Love Me Anyway.” And during the 2022 CMA Awards on Nov. 9, Chris joined forces with Patty Loveless for a chilling delivery of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” a haunting tune about a Kentucky coal-mining family seeking escape from their tiny town.
Chris Stapleton and Patty Loveless—both Kentucky natives—performed the song to call attention to the historic flooding in their home state earlier this year. Chris and Patty previously performed the duet in October during the Kentucky Rising concert to benefit flood relief.
Eagle-eyed viewers of Chris and Patty’s performance may have also noticed another Kentuckian on the stage: Darrell Scott, who was playing the Dobro. Darrell penned “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” which he included on his 1997 debut album, Aloha From Nashville.
Loveless Delivers, Stapleton Wins Again
But perhaps the most well-known version of the song is Patty Loveless’ rendition on her 2001 album, Mountain Soul (West Virginia native Brad Paisley also covered the song on his 2001 sophomore album, Part II). Patty’s version is especially hard-hitting—her father died from black lung disease. And Harlan is only about 90 miles from her hometown of Pikeville, KY.
Patty Loveless, who largely retired from touring about a dozen years ago, was a force on the country charts during the late-1980s and ’90s. In addition, she earned five CMA Awards, two ACM Awards, and two Grammy Awards during her—should be Country Music Hall of Fame—career. Fingers crossed, she’ll get in there.
One more note before we get to Chris and Patty’s chilling performance. Chris Stapleton copped his 20th CMA Award trophy earlier in the evening when he was named Male Vocalist of the Year (his sixth win in the category).