Sturgill Simpson might be one of the most confusing, intriguing, and hardcore outlaw artists the country music world has ever seen… and I am totally here for it.
With Simpson’s style, it’s nearly impossible to box the man in one specific genre, and that’s exactly the way he wants it to be.
Simpson made it crystal clear in a recent (well, relatively recent for Sturgill) interview with Uproxx that he never wants to be the guy who sells his soul to “the man.” In fact, he worked pretty hard to get out of his record deal. In the interview, he discusses how he caught himself buying into the music industry machine.
“We all do it. I caught myself doing it. I was like, ‘Oh, wait a minute, this is not what you fucking moved here for. Let’s try to wake up in 20 years and be able to look in the fucking mirror.’ Because I already got enough regret. I don’t want my art to be something I ever feel like I compromised on.”
This interview also explains why he released his first ever rock album, Sound & Fury, in September of 2019. The album came completely out of left field compared to the kind of music we were used to hearing from him, and was also released in conjunction with a Japanese anime film. The move left a lot of country fans, including me, scratching their heads. Ultimately, he was able to get out of his record deal with the release of that album, and he still wound up with a Grammy nomination in the process.
But it all makes sense, it’s just Sturgill giving the corporate music industry the middle finger.
Simpson’s 2013 solo debut, High Top Mountain, gives you a working class, blue collar feel, with songs such as “Life Ain’t Fair and the World Is Mean,” “Some Days,” and “You Can Have the Crown.” The album makes you feel like he’s singing with a bit of chip on his shoulder… and of course, it’s country as all hell.
Then you have his 2014 album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. This album gives you a more laid back ballad style, with songs like “Turtles All the Way Down,” “Voices,” and “Long White Line.” It’s still just as country as ever, although it was nominated for a Grammy in the “Americana” category.
His 2016 album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, is pretty much a soul record, where you can find in songs like “Sea Stories”, and Simpson’s cover of Nirvana’s hit “In Bloom.” It was of course was nominated in the “Country” category at the Grammys, as well all-genre.
Just when you think the guy’s musical abilities couldn’t get anymore diverse, he comes out with a surprise bluegrass album, Cuttin’ Grass-Vol. 1, this past October. In the album he covers some of his old songs in bluegrass style, such as “Life Ain’t Fair and the World Is Mean,” “Long White Line,” and “Turtles All the Way Down.”
Country, Americana (whatever that means), Soul, Rock, Bluegrass… Sturgill has done it all, and done it all EXTREMEMLY well. A true artist in every sense of the word.
Hopefully, we’ll get to see Sturgill tour behind this bluegrass project (he said he plans on it, but with COVID still as present as ever, who knows when that will really be). There’s really no telling what’s next for Ol’ Sturgill, but either way, I can’t wait.
And how about that rewritten verse in “You Can Have The Crown?”
“Lord, I finally got out of my record deal
and now these bluegrass tunes is buying all my meals,
and we’re all just pawns in the game of life, like Mongo.”
Gotta love that Blazing Saddles reference…