The name Sturgill Simpson evokes strong emotions. Some consider him to be the “savior” of country music, while others don’t get his “out there” tendencies and prefer the mundane sounds of new country radio.
I for one, while being a big fan of his first two albums, was skeptical of him signing to a major label (my old punk rock days were clearly shining through). Add to this, his parting with uber producer Dave Cobb — I couldn’t help but think we were being set up for a letdown. Would we now be subjected to tailgates and pretty girls in short shorts, instead of a world “where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull all out all your pain.”
I’m happy to say my irrational fears were unfounded. Simpson’s self-produced A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is easily one of the finest albums of the year. The soaring voice that consumed and excited country fans is just as impressive, and while this album leans to the left of traditional country, the musical arrangements are brilliant. Horn and string sections dominate this nine-song set and it’s as invigorating as anything Simpson has previously recorded.
Lyrically, the album is an ode and cautionary tale to his son on how to live an honorable life. Throughout the album Simpson weaves tales about his time in the Navy, growing up, doing drugs and life in general.
“Brace for Impact (Live A Little)” and the Nirvana cover of “In Bloom” are what the media is talking about, but “Welcome To Earth (Pollywog), “Oh Sarah,” and “Keep It Between The Lines” are the standouts on this record.
Sturgill Simpson is on the forefront of not just country music, but music in general . As an artist, there is no one like him. There never will be. That’s a blessing and a curse.
Let me know what you think? You can find me on Twitter @Sneezeguard and you can pick up Sturgill Simpon’s new album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth at this itunes link.