The minute this album opens with Sturgill Simpson saying, in compressed sound, that "this is the meta modern sounds of country music," you know something new and different will follow.
The album is called "meta-modern" and is a conscious allusion to the 1960 album of Ray Charles, The Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music." Ray Charles expanded the idiom of country music by infusing it with slow blues, soul and jazz. Simpson is doing the same thing with Country by injecting a healthy dose of psychedelia into Country. Simpson's experimentation with country is equally successful. Simpson weaves his Country twang, guitar licks and steel pedals moaning, and the Country concerns with love lost, love found, love unrequited, self-doubts and self-medicating, with echos, reverb, backward recording, and channel fluctuations, to produce a convincing portrait of the inner meditations of a singer in transition.
He has produced something more. This album is like the Beatles' Sgt Pepper, in which every song was an innovation, every song attempted to stretch the musical idiom even farther. Similarly, Simpson is taking Country to musical lands it has never been before.
The highpoint is "It Ain't All Flowers," the longest track on the album. It is a meandering journey in and out of reality, with the backwards recording of a bass line, interrupted by the world-weary voice of Simpson.
Even though Simpson delves deep within himself to sing his soul, he never loses sight of his country roots. It is first and foremost a country album. It is country laced with a dose of psychedelia, and he somehow manages to make the two halves work. His finished product is pure ear-candy.