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Sturgill Simpson - The Antidote to "bad rock with a fiddle",
This review is from: Metamodern Sounds In Country Music (Audio CD)
It is undoubtedly the case that Sturgill Simpson possesses the best name in country music at the current time. The title of his sophomore album "Metamodern Sounds In Country Music" also suggests a man pushing boundaries and breaking some of the chains which have restricted the genre. A few listens to this album, however, confirms a classic purveyor of the country music art in the vocal tradition of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard plus infused with the wider Bakersfield sound. In short it is very good although not revolutionary. And perhaps that's the point for in restating some of country's outlaw traditions it does clearly separate Simpson's music from the excruciatingly horrible and slick "bro country" sung by the Nashville equivalents of relatively aged boy bands.
Simpson's music tends to couch the narrative around his music with strong psychedelic leanings and the excellent opening track "Turtles all the way down" is a country masterclass with lyrics more suited to Moby Grape. Thus, we find our hero "Standing beneath a tortoise under an elephant under the world", referencing all sorts of metaphysics and tipping a nod on the album to psychedelic guru Rick Strassman. Who cares, it is a great country song which manages not to mention a single bar or a highway. "It ain't all flowers" is even more explicit particularly in terms of its references to drug trips, a variety of exotic substances and culminates in a strange musical wig out. At nearly seven minutes, it is nevertheless an engaging tale, essentially an updated outlaw song for the internet age. There is more traditional fare to be located on the album with "Long White Line" country road song, while the tender ballad "The Promise" turns out to be an almost unrecognisable cover of When In Rome's 1988 one-hit wonder.
Throughout the song quality is consistently high especially "Voices" and is that a mellotron on the excellent "Just let go"?. Granted Simpson does often sound like one of the old outlaws but you can happily give this reviewer an hour of his rooted authenticity than two minutes of Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan. "Metamodern Sounds In Country Music" may contain a large blob of irony in its title but country music needs to honour and develop its great traditions and not just be "bad rock with a fiddle".