Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sturgill Simpson "Metamodern Sounds in Country Music" Album Review

      Sturgill Simpson has gone from relative unknown to the hottest thing in underground country in just two short years.  The rise of Sturgill can be primarily attributed to two things: his flawless voice and stellar songwriting.  It's funny that in a world so obsessed with find the next big thing and the next hot sound, they forget that writing excellent songs and singing them really well is still the universal language that all music fans can understand.  That's what Sturgill does.  While his stellar debut High Top Mountain was a throwback to his musical upbringing, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music is all about the future.  With Sturgill Simpson at the mic, the future of country music is in good hands.

      This album is weird.   Delightfully weird.  It isn't your typical Nashville fare. Heck, it isn't your typical underground country album.  Sturgill digs deep inside himself to question life and love and beliefs in a 10 song power trip.  The opening track, "Turtles All The Way Down" deals with God, LSD, and reptile aliens made of light.  No, that last part isn't made up.  He questions everything and everyone, and ends up with the simple truth: just love each other. Its a complex and intriguing song that can certainly rub some the wrong way.  I can see both sides in this case, but not everyone has to like every song.  If it isn't for you, you have 9 slightly less weird alternatives on the album.  If you love it, this album is probably right up your alley.  We could use a little weird, we have enough of the same old same old these days. "Life Of Sin" follows and is a fun and moody rockabilly song that will get your toes tapping.  "Living The Dream" is one of the best songs on the album.  Sturgill really throws his suburb baritone around on this song, featuring some of his best vocals to date.  The structure is that of a classic '70's outlaw song, but it still sounds fresh and modern. "I don't need to change my strings, cause the dirt don't hurt the way I sing".  Preach it Sturgill.

      "Voices" is equally as great as "Living The Dream", once again combining a cool throwback sound with lyrics that are thoughtful and applicable to today.  "A picture is worth a thousand words, but words ain't worth a dime".  Heavy stuff.  "The Promise" is another heavy song, though this one isn't a Sturgill original.  Its actually a cover of a song by the band When In Rome released in 1988.  You wouldn't know it by this cover.  Sturgill inflicts soul and passion into every word and makes this song his own and then some.  "A Little Light Within" is my favorite track on the album, and unfortunately, the shortest.  Its a fun little gospel number with a call and response chorus that is so gritty and raw that it sounds like the band and Sturgill threw it together in five minutes and recorded the first take.  And I don't mean that in a bad way.  It just feels natural and unfiltered.  Its a short but sweet gem.  I'm also really big on "Just Let Go".  It's another song where Sturgill really shows off his vocal prowess.  "Long White Line" is a fun country road song with regret and loss.  On the surface it seems like standard fare, but it is deeper than you would first expect.  Typical Sturgill..  "It Ain't All Flowers" rivals "Turtles" in its trippy sounds and strange vibe, but it works. Just when you think its getting into progressive rock territory, Sturgill lets out a hillbilly holler than reminds you "oh yeah, this is a country song".  It like it a little better than "Turtles", although I'm not crazy about the extended outro.  But, to each his own I suppose.  The bonus track of "Pan Bowl" closes the album with memories of Sturgill's childhood.  If you were looking for a song that threw it back to High Top Mountain, this is your song.  Its very subdued and peaceful, and Sturgill lets the song do the talking.  Another fantastic track.

      What more can I say about Sturgill Simpson that hasn't already been said?  The guy is all over every music mag and website right now.  He deserves every ounce of that praise.  He makes country music the way he wants and sees fit.  He doesn't take orders, yet he isn't condescending.  He respects tradition, but moves toward the future.  He has his beliefs, but he questions everything.  THIS is what country music needs.  Metamodern Sounds In Country Music is a masterpiece, and Sturgill Simpson is the top dog in country music right now.  I simply can't recommend this album enough.  Do yourself a favor and get a copy.  Well done, Sturgill.  Thanks for the great music.

Standout Tracks: "Living The Dream", "A Little Light Within", "Voices", "Long White Line", "Just Let Go", "Pan Bowl"

"Long White Line"

"Turtles All The Way Down"


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