Once in a while, a country album comes out that makes you stop in your tracks and just listen. Sturgill Simpson has come through with his new release, High Top Mountain. The old school driving honky tonk sound is alive and well with this collection of tunes. If you really love country music, and I mean real, hardcore, punch you in the belly and rip out your heart country music, you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t own this album.
I came across Sturgill on the fantastic website Saving Country Music, so all credit for my discovery of him goes to Trigger. I learned there that Sturgill was formally the lead singer of Sunday Valley. This is his debut solo album, and it is a doozy. Sturgill sounds like Waylon Jennings, George Jones, and Jamey Johnson were welded together to make a country music hillbilly bionic man. His voice and production style are exactly what country music needs: classic and modern sounds mixed with tons of soul.
Sturgill comes down hard on mainstream country and the hard life of a struggling musician on tracks like “Life Ain’t Fair And The World Is Mean” and “You Can Have The Crown”. Both of these songs draw hard comparisons to Waylon, and they are warranted. Sturgill has that backbeat and growl in his voice that is very reminiscent of ol' Hoss, but he is his own man with his own sound. By building on the foundation that the legends laid down, Sturgill has built a country music wall that is strong and steady.
Sturgill also comes across with some solid heartfelt sad songs, as any true country artist should do. “Water In A Well” really stands out as a great ballad with emotion and soul. He really sings the hell out of it as well. “Hero” is a heartfelt tune as well, and “Old King Coal” is a great story sound where Sturgill enrolls into the George Jones vocal school with his lonesome sounding runs.
Basically, it doesn’t matter if it is upbeat and driving like “Railroad of Sin”, or slow and heartfelt like “I’d Have To Be Crazy”, every song was written with a purpose. There are no fillers with overused clichés and gimmicks. Every song has a message, a story, a meaning… something to make it worth your while. That is what country music is missing. I could go on and on about this album, but I think the only way to appreciate it is to listen to it for yourself. If you don’t like this album, you must not be a true country music fan, because this is what country music is all about.
Standout Tracks: “Life Ain’t Fair and The World Is Mean”, “You Can Have The Crown”, Water In A Well”, “Old King Coal”
"Life Ain't Fair and The World Is Mean"
"You Can Have The Crown" and "Some Days"
"Water In A Well"