I was flipping channels last night when a melody caught my ear. A familiar song, that for a second I couldn’t place, then in an instant, goosebumps shot up my arms, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up….I was completely mesmerized by one of the best cover arrangements I’d ever heard. The past years I’ve heard my friends Baron Lane and Rita Ballou speak about a Country Music artist named Sturgill Simpson. Hand to God, can’t remember the last time a song made me feel like that.
Immediately I went online and Google’d him. “The Promise” originally from 80’s Alt Rock Band “When in Rome” is the most recent release from Simpson’s sophomore album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. By slowing the tempo Sturgill uses a Waylon-esque-ish meets Chris Isaak circa Wicked Game arrangement that simply made me melt.
I believe it’s one of about three thousand brilliant compositions from the 80’s that got lost in production. I always thought the lyrics to “The Promise” made for a very beautiful, sweet love song and decided I’d like to lay down a somewhat “Countrypolitan” version, says Sturgill via an NPR interview.
Heck I was so entranced that I picked up the whole album, and it is easily one of the best of 2014. On my second time through, I felt inspired to write this post. Will listen a few more times and see if I can learn how to write a review….it’s not my forte, for sure. But it doesn’t matter, I guarantee you need to buy his album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, you will thank me for recommending it.
On the playlist below I actually included “Wicked Game” and then the original version of “The Promise” from ‘When in Rome‘. Let me know your thoughts below. I am really curious to see what you all think. I absolutely feel like I struck oil and the the sound is just bursting into the air.
Sturgill Simpson isn’t one to rest on his laurels, which is why, less than a year after the release of his critically acclaimed debut, High Top Mountain, the singer-songwriter came out with his captivating and wholly unique sophomore album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music last May through his own label, High Top Mountain Records. The album title – an allusion to Ray Charles’ groundbreaking 1962 record, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music — hints at the psychedelic sounds found within, a departure from Simpson’s first album, which drew comparisons to the music of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard.
“I think that there is a lot of room in country music for progression and sonic oscillation, which is what I wanted to explore.”
Where some artists find inspiration from other music, Simpson found his in books, devouring religious texts both ancient and modern, recent studies about discoveries in quantum physics and string theory, and publications by Carl Sagan and Terence McKenna. He also drew upon French filmmaker Gaspar Noe’s experimental drama Enter the Void as he created murky, multi-textured soundscapes that incorporate elements of classic country, bluegrass, rock, and even a bit of electronica, a genre that Simpson admits he has a “slight fetish” for.
Simpson reunited with High Top Mountain producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Lindi Ortega, Jamey Johnson) for Metamodern Sounds in Country Music; the pair has formed a strong friendship in addition to a solid in-studio partnership built on complete trust and the willingness to engage in creative musical experimentation. Working with a budget of only $4,000, Simpson and his road band – bassist Kevin Black, guitarist Laur Joamets, and drummer Miles Miller — cut the entire record live to tape in four rare consecutive days off in the middle of a relentless tour schedule; nearly all of the songs were completed in two takes or fewer during these spur of the moment sessions. The result is an album that crackles with the raw energy of a concert.