Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sturgill Simpson's Mind-Bending Country

Sturgill Simpson 
Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
High Top Mountain Records
Produced by Dave Cobb
Five Scoops of Bosco 

Reviewed by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

I have just finished listening to possibly the most interesting and genre-bending Country Music album of my entire life and it came from somebody I least expected.

When Sturgill Simpson dropped on the country music scene a few years ago, he pretty much pitched a fastball straight down the middle.

In his first album, High Top Mountain, with his rich baritone in tow, it was as if he was channeling some of the great classic Country Singer/Songwriters in the vein of Merle Haggard, Roy Orbison, and Waylon Jennings.  Pretty traditional stuff which earned him rave reviews from the critics last year.

In his latest, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, (releasing on Tues. May 13) at a casual first listen anyway, Sturgill sounds like he is serving up more of the same. But on deeper reflection, it has you saying/asking, Wait a minute!  What did I just hear? What did he just say?

For instance, on the opening track, "Turtles All the Way Down". Simpson delivers these lyrics in his best Country Drawl:

I've seen Jesus play with flames in a lake of fire that I was standing in 
Met the devil in Seattle and spent 9 months inside the lions den 
Met Buddha yet another time and he showed me a glowing light within 
But I swear that God is there every time I glare in the eyes of my best friend 

...There's a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there beyond this plane 
Where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain 

...So to each their own til' we go home To other realms our souls must roam 
To and through the myth that we all call space and time 

This definitely is not your Daddy's Waylon Jennings.

It's as if Country met Psychedelia and had a Child.

It's Acid Country.

Even though Simpson is no doubt going to take a few hits from the Country Purists on this one, this is definitely a country album and belongs in no other genre.

Listen to the  "Life of Sin", "Voices" or the spirituality of "A Little Light" and there is no doubt this belongs in the Country Section of the Record Store.

But when you get down to it... some of the best Country albums over the years have been the ones that successfully experimented with and expanded the genre.  Think about Soul Man Ray Charle's 1962 classic Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music which Sturgill acknowledges was a big influence.

Charle's album was a game changer and I predict Sturgill's latest will have the same effect on County Music.

Sturgill does a wonderful job fielding two covers on the album with Buford Abner's trucker classic "Long White Line" and a beautiful slowed-downed spin on When in Rome's  "The Promise".  The songs are placed together in the middle of the album.

The balance of the album is all his own creation.

Sturgill and his Producer Dave Cobb get some great performances from the backing band.  The band consists of  Laur Joamets (electric and slide guitars)  Kevin Black (Bass) Miles Miller (drums/percussion/ backing vocals)  and Mike Webb (keyboards/mellotron)

Producer Cobb also plays excellent classical guitar and percussion on the album.

What you have here is the most innovative and brilliant Country Album so far this year.

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