Sturgill Simpson’s “Life Ain’t Fair & The World Is Mean”

October 13, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  24 Comments

Without blinking, I can look you straight in the eye and tell you that Sturgill Simpson is one of the most musically-gifted individuals I’ve ever seen perform. If Sturgill was a baseball player, they would refer to him as a 5 tool guy. He can play, he can sing, he can perform, he can write, and he’s a good dude. But before this song, I probably would have listed Sturgill’s songwriting somewhere farther down the 5 tool list. Not that it was bad, but his stellar Telecaster work and unique vocals are what draw you in first.

The miraculous thing about “Life Ain’t Fair & The World Is Mean” is how many subjects Sturgill touches on while saying so little. This ridiculous “new Outlaw” movement in country, how famous country sons dominate the independent country landscape, the way mainstream labels and producers manipulate artists, and how the system is rigged against authenticity; all these subjects are touched on in a song that when you really boil it down is actually a very personal story about Sturgill and his struggles and choices, and coming to grips with the inherent injustices in life and saying “that’s okay.”

“The most Outlaw thing that a man today can do is give a woman a ring.”

I’m not sure if “Life Ain’t Fair” will go on to be Saving Country Music’s Song of the Year, but I’ll go ahead and unilaterally proclaim this the “Lyric of the Year” (and this is coming from a man who never wants to get married). With a simple statement, Sturgill slays the ridiculous cocksure bravado that brays from the lips of mainstream country’s douche league to cover up for their personal insecurities and lack of authentic cred.

The magic of “Life Ain’t Fair” is the way it trivializes all the issues it raises by simply pointing out the obvious: that life’s unfairness is inherent, and complaining about it or using it as an excuse to not pursue your dreams is foolish. It’s cynical and inspirational all at the same time, and that feat of acrobatics can’t be performed without some acute dexterity and prowess with the pen.

A special note on this song: It was first released in a video through Music Fog in January. Then a couple of weeks ago Sturgill released this song exclusively through BandCamp as a precursor to his upcoming album. I’m not sure if it’s because my brain latched onto the original version first, but I tend to prefer the more open arrangement and the older lyrics of the first version. Sturgill’s guitar is too sweet to bury in a mix. It’s also worth noting that Country Music Hall of Famer Hargus “Pig” Robbins plays piano on the studio version. But regardless of what version you are talking about, I give it…

Two guns way up!

24 Comments to “Sturgill Simpson’s “Life Ain’t Fair & The World Is Mean””

  • Any timeframe on the album release?

    • Not as of yet and Sturgill is a hard dude to get a hold of these days. My guess is we’ll have an announcement soon.

  • Awesome! Can’t wait for the album. I would love to get sturgill Simpson, Leroy Virgil, charlie Starr, Jamey Johnson, whitey morgan, and Elizabeth cook all in the same room together and see the magic they could create.

  • The music is heavily inspired by Waylon. The bass-drum pattern, in particular, sounds very similar to Waylon’s signature beat.

  • THIS is the song that made me fall in LOVE, with Sturg and Sunday Valley, granted Sunday was more or less gone already. I HOPE this is the direction Sturg takes on his new album. THIS is the way its done. And Im with you Trig, I first heard it when they did the video in Jan, I prefer that arrangement the best.

  • Thanks for reviewing this. More good music to look forward to! I hear the Waylon in his music too.

  • Cool. Thanks, Trigg. His voice reminds me a little of Jerry Reed…

  • Good stuff… I am really looking forward to this album..

    • Damn straight. I’m keeping an eye on this album.

  • I like this a lot, but I hope his next album doesn’t go totally in this direction. What I liked so much about Sunday Valley was how they so perfectly fused fundamentally country music with punk and rock energy. Granted, I’m no country purist, and tend to prefer country music with lots of electric guitar and fast tempos. I hope Sturgill hasn’t abandoned those blistering guitar solos.

  • I’m anxious to hear it as well….I got to play a show with Sunday Valley on a snowy night much earlier this year here in Richmond. It was one of the last shows he played as Sunday Valley. We’ve sent a few messages back and forth since and he mentioned this would be different than Sunday Valley…and I agree w/Alivegardeb regarding an almost perfect mix of Country & Punk….Sunday Valley and The Von Ehrics out of Dallas have released some of the best Cow-Punk since early Jason & The Scorchers

    • The Choir is present preach away my brother Dirk!

    • The new version: Good song, I would say that’s the way he sings normally, nice voice. Old version: He sang the shit out of that song!!! So much passion, enthusiasm and energy!!!

  • I was wondering if others liked the Music Fog version better too. I think the slower pace and the subtle lyric changes in the Music Fog version make a significant difference. That being said, both versions kick ass and I can’t wait for the full album.

  • I was one of the few who got to see one of the last performances of Sunday Valley in Austin earlier this year. Love the Music Fog version! Gotta let the guitar howl!

  • I must disagree. I have followed Sunday Valley since learning of them on this website, I’ve watched every video online of the old band, and I loved the energy but there was always something about the overall sound that just didn’t seem to fit for me. I can see why some music fans might like the music fog version better due to it’s rawness but I think what they are really responding to is just watching the honesty and soul pour out of Sturgill..the dude is an enigmatic performer to say the least so try listening to both with your eyes closed. As a drummer, I have to say that the new recorded version is worlds beyond the old one. The video is almost painful for me to watch. It drags like a sun’ofa’bitch and the tempo is all over the place. Also, I’m sorry but I gotta say I’ve heard better guitar players and I think it shows a lot of maturity on Sturgill’s part to serve the song and leave all the wanking at the door on a track like this. Besides, whoever’s playing steel guitar is fucking AMAZING!!! This dude’s voice is his real instrument. I cannot wait to hear the rest of this record and have a strong feeling it’s gonna turn Nashville on it’s ass.

  • Agreed…I heard the Music Fog version early in the year and love that version. Vocals are Waylon-ish but not copycat. I also like the lyrics a bit better on the Music Fog version. Either way, I ponied up my .99 cents, gotta feed the boy so he can keep making us those records.

  • You’re welcome, and thank you for allowing me to discover this great band !

  • Never heard this guy before …. But you can bet I’ll be hearing him a lot more. My kinda Outlaw Country.

  • To Charlie: thank you for leaving a long, very detailed, lengthy post. It makes me feel a bit better about a post I made regarding nominees for ACM Song of the Year 2014. I was just typing a away, getting my point across, clicked post, then saw that I had written a novella in a sea of tweets! Anyway, I don’t feel so bad now that I’ve seen other lengthy posts like yours. So thanks again for your service today 😉

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