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Sturgill Simpson

Not your usual run-of-the-mill contemporary country artist, modern-day outlaw STURGILL SIMPSON pitched his proverbial tent somewhere on the borders of the Grand Ole Opry and the blue moon of Kentucky. Displaying a mighty vocal than transfused WAYLON JENNINGS (an obvious influence) and JAMEY JOHNSON, the bearded troubadour was expected to break through into the mainstream, therefore, no one was surprised when, in April 2016, third album, `A Sailor’s Guide To Earth’, tore up the country rulebook to reach the Top 3, making him the only cosmic cowboy on the block.
Born John Sturgill Simpson, June 8, 1978, Jackson, Kentucky, Sturgill gained some recognition as frontman for the post-millennium local act Sunday Valley. Founding a label of the same name to project his debut album, HIGH TOP MOUNTAIN (2013) {*7}, the singer/songwriter (and guitarist) rolled out all the stops on echoing his honky tonk heroes on the likes of `Life Ain’t Fair And The World Is Mean’, `Sitting Here Without You’, `Water In A Well’ and `You Can Have The Crown’. While he was no GARTH BROOKS or GEORGE STRAIT (no bad thing then?), a cooler and almost horizontal Sturgill came across as an amiable outlaw, who could well be the next big thing in country-roots music.
Anchored once again by producer Dave Cobb (who’d worked with JASON ISBELL), he roped in a fresh set of musicians (underlined by the steely guitar and Telecaster picking of Laur Joamets), the aptly-titled METAMODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY MUSIC (2014) {*7}, infused Nashville with glorious gospel. Opening with the dulcet tones of `Turtles All The Way Down’ (very KRIS KRISTOFFERSON), the album carved out a crunching country niche. `Life Of Sin’, and a couple of covers by way of WHEN IN ROME’s `The Promise’ and Charlie Moore & Bill Napier’s “trucker” anthem, `Long White Line’, a pointer to future experiments lay within the tripped-out 6 minutes of `It Ain’t All Flowers’.
Finding an identity within the stoic country movement was going to be a hard task, and harder still was to convince outsider “rock” fans he was a contender in today’s trending mass. Maybe Atlantic Records would help him in his ambitions. If FATHER JOHN MISTY (aka J. TILLMAN) had approached the genre from a different angle that conservative country lovers came to fear (even more than God!), STURGILL branched out into soul and psychedelia on the concept A SAILOR’S GUIDE TO EARTH {*8}. So there was method to his madness on `Welcome To Earth (Pollywog)’ and the almost classical beauty of `Breakers Roar’. Sandwiched in between a rather conventional `Sea Stories’ and `Brace For Impact (Live A Little)’, there shook up a mighty marmite effect for his orchestral, rootsy reading of NIRVANA’s `In Bloom’ – Kurt Cobain just might’ve been impressed.
© MC Strong/MCS Apr2016

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