I have to admit that I just might lose my place among the more “Highbrow” writers with this review. But, after thinking about it, I’ve never been among that crowd too much anyway. Upon first listen to the new album from Americana favorite Sturgill Simpson, I’m a little bit confused. After all, this is the guy who isn’t like everyone else, you know- the modern day Waylon Jennings. An artist who does the kind of Country that nobody does anymore. I heard that description of his last album, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, I had him pegged as a traditional-minded singer who was going to record his kind of Country in spite of the “System” of Nashville.
Then, he does this.
Working on his own, and without the production of Dave Cobb, there are some fans – the purists, who loved the in-your-face style of performance and personality that Simpson exudes – who might not “get” this album, per se. Rather than try to make the Jennings record that was never released, the Kentucky native veers off in a more blues-laden direction here. It might throw some for a loop, but I’ve got to say that I appreciate the artistic integrity of Simpson in giving his fans something a little different than what they were expecting.
Among the nine cuts on the album, he fares best with the weary and tested feel of “Breakers Roar” as well as the seductive and laid back feel of “In Bloom,” which has a Jennings-meets-Chris Isaak feel to it that the singer handles quite nicely. “Keep It Between The Lines” allows him to get in touch with his funk side, and he showcases a Memphis sound on “All Around You.”
Musically, the only miscue here is “Sea Stories,” which never really seems to take flight – at least to my ears, but give Simpson credit. He definitely pitched critics and fans alike with this one. It will be very interesting to see what his next move will be!