Sturgill Simpson has been very busy over the past year. The Jackson, Kentucky native has recorded and produced two full length country albums in the past 16 months. Originally the lead singer of the band Sunday Valley, Simpson’s solo work has been garnering him both critical acclaim and word of mouth buzz. Simpson’s brilliant sophomore album, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, perfectly balances the line between authentic raw sound of classic outlaw country while maintaining a fresh modern feel. Not only is it the best country album this year it could easily be one of the best sounding albums this year thanks to producer Dave Cobb, who also produced Jason Isbell’s excellent album Southeastern last year.
This is pure country with a modern twist. The stand-out first track, “Turtles All the Way Down”, is not the subject matter of most current country songs. A quick Wikipedia search shows the deeper meaning of the expression “turtles all the way down the line” and its long history in astronomy and cosmology. It basically refers to vastness of the universe, there is no true beginning or end, just turtles all the way down the line (world is on a never ending stack of turtles). Sturgill hits this topic along with Christianity, Buddhism & mind-altering substances and ultimately concludes that love is the only form of true redemption. I like my singer songwriters spitting out such heady tunes. It’s unique, thought provoking, and beautiful.
Another great track is the brilliant cover “The Promise”, originally an 80s hit by British pop band When in Rome and made relevant again when featured in Napolean Dynamite. This is the best kind of cover. What Sturgill does with this song is reminiscent of what Ryan Adams did with Oasis’ “Wonderwall”, transforming the original and making it unequivalently his own. This version becomes a smooth honky tonk love song.
“It Ain’t All Flowers” Is a spacey country tune that dissolves into an extended Beatles-like psychedelic jam. I have heard people refer to Sturgill as the Cosmic Cowboy and for this track the name fits. Other tunes have more traditional country themes and sounds. The rowdy “Life of Sin” harkens back to classic outlaw country. Be sure to check out the live version from Letterman.
Metamodern Sounds In Country Music is one of the first albums that truly recalls the early days of outlaw country. It could be paired easily with Willy, Waylon, and the boys while at the same time sitting nicely with Jason Isbell, Father John Misty, and even Tame Impala. True country music has a new champion in Sturgill Simpson.
Turtles All the Way Down – Sturgill Simpson from Sturgill Simpson on Vimeo.
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