It takes guts to protect Whitney and Mariah, and it also takes more guts for any male vocalist to interrupt through the machismo of country music and sing the hits of famous divas, but Sam Hunt’s not scared to take a clear, crisp left-of-center turn. On The Bobby Bones Show earlier inside the month, Hunt gave a preview on the acoustic medley he’s performing on his Lipstick Graffiti Tour, which include snippets from classic tunes by Houston, Carey, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Bonnie Raitt and Wynonna Judd.

“That’s the interesting thing about having only 1 record out,” Hunt told Rolling Stone Country back January, during his tour kickoff party in Nashville. “You must play more time than the album, ought to you play it bottom to top. You run away from songs. So it’s been cool to figure out ways to elongate the set. Covers are tricky, because those already know the songs and also have emotional attachments to your artists. So you ought to find a technique of doing covers that matches with what one does.”

And true to Hunt’s style, he’s set the songs to guitar, getting a uniquely breathy set up his voice that splits the gap between crooner country and smooth R&B. In the performance below, he mixes McEntire’s “Fancy” with Yearwood’s “She’s in Love With the Boy” and Carey’s “Always Be My Baby.”

For film for “Take You Time,” the modern single off Hunt’s debut Montevallo, the envelope-pushing artist decided to adopt another departure in the norm by addressing domestic violence. It’s a very dramatic plotline to lace alongside a song that can have lent itself to your typical romantic, snuggling-in-a-car scenes. Instead, the clip ends with Hunt saving a woman in the last blows of the abusive partner. Again, a gutsy move — Garth Brooks tackled a comparable issue in their 1991 video for “The Thunder Rolls” and it also was quickly banned by CMT.

Hunt’s sold-out tour continues through May, when he’ll link up with Lady Antebellum for any string of dates and festivals. In the meantime, keep expecting the unexpected. “Hopefully dozens of walls breakdown, and music is definitely music,” he admits that.

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