Thursday, 7 August 2014

Albums of 2014: Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

Anyone with an interest in sport, football being a prime example, has heard of a player who has not discovered a talent until later in his life. Somebody who has had a 'normal' job or career, only to be discovered and thrown into the big time league.

You could use this analogy with Sturgill Simpson. 

At time of writing, Sturgill now 36, picked up a guitar in his early years. He then joined the Navy. When he left the navy after 3 years service he continued to play music and formed a band. 
Sturgill then went and worked for a rail company in the USA.

Knowing that there is music inside you and struggling to keep that passion burning while you are working in another job must be extremely frustrating. Sturgill continued to perform at open mic venues and in 2012 he finally got his break.

The release of his debut solo album High Top Mountain in 2013 showed what an amazing talent the world had been missing.
Steeped in old school country, the album is full of great tunes and spirited performances  of a man who is finally doing what he loves. And it shows.

Sturgill is being compared to many of the old school Country greats such as Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and most of the Outlaw boys.
High Top Mountain is 12 tracks of uncompromising Country played with passion and an honesty that is rarely seen in music these days.

Now in 2014 - hot on the heels of his debut, Sturgill has released an absolute gem of an album. Nobody expected an album this soon after High Top Mountain and I'm sure nobody expected an album this great, except maybe Sturgill himself.

Metamodern Sounds In Country Music is a revelation in Country Music sounds and approach. Not since perhaps Gram Parson has a major Country artist decided to shake up the genre with such elan.

Right from the opening track Turtles All The Way Down, Sturgill nails his colours to the mast. With the soaring Country voice rising above keyboard backing that could be described as psychedelic with what sounds like backwards guitar it's the last place you'd expect to find this sort of sonic experimentation

This is not so say that Sturgill has abandoned his classic Bakersfield sound completely with new classics like the gorgeous Voices with it drama and classic country twang.


The spirit of Johnny Cash can be heard in the jaunty A Little Light.

Country music has been looking for a 'Real' star for quite some time - his sound and approach may be a little traditional and daring or the current Nashville stars, with maybe the exception of Brad Paisley, but Sturgill Simpson certainly carries the flame within him and has produced an album that may even convert some non country music followers. 

If you really want to see how far Sturgill can take Country, just take a listen to It Ain't All Flowers. Let's hope he holds his nerve for the next album and pushes the music even further.

In 1988 a band called When In Rome had a minor one hit wonder with The Promise.

What Sturgill does with this song is just breathtaking and shows the quality of his vision of music.

So I urge you all to seek out this album. Even if you think you don't like Country music, give it a go. It's the album of a man who has hit his stride and is brave enough to take Counrty music to places it hasn't been  before. I look forward to album number 3 with relish. But there again, he may just put in a pure country performance. Let's wait and see.

Twitter - @SturgillSimpson

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