10 Years Ago: Sturgill Simpson Releases Landmark Album “Metamodern Sounds”

10 years ago today on May 13th, 2014, Sturgill Simpson released what many people consider his magnum opus, and perhaps one of the most important records in the long history of country music, the conceptualized Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.

Titled as a play off of the landmark Ray Charles albums Modern Sounds in Country Music Vol. #1 and #2, and given credit for striking a distinctly psychedelic tone in the country space, Metamodern Sounds nonetheless was still a decisively traditional country record that reshaped the sonic paradigm in country music, while also opening up the possibilities for what a country artist signed to an independent label and not on country radio could accomplish.

Though Metamodern Sounds is well-beloved among many country fans to the tune of being Certified Gold by the RIAA, it’s not the commercial performance of the album as much as the influence the album had that is the reason it’s considered so revered, especially when looking back at the album’s impact from a 10-year retrospective.

On May 13th, 2014, country music was in the throes of Bro-Country, with artists like Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan dominating the format. For the first 24 weeks of 2014, Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan spent a collective 20 weeks at #1 with songs like Luke’s “Drink A Beer,” and Florida Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll,” feat. Luke Bryan.

But it was Metamodern Sounds that helped break that fever, and lead to the entirely different landscape in country music we enjoy today. But the impact wasn’t felt immediately. One of the advantageous elements to the Metamodern release is it came less than a year after Sturgill’s debut album High Top Mountain, which allowed the strong momentum gained from the first album to carry over to Metamodern.

Metamodern debuted at #8 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, which was no small feat in itself. If it accomplished nothing else, it inspired Chris Stapleton to record his debut album Traveller in the same vein as Meatamodern, meaning all live with his road band and producer Dave Cobb in Nashville’s historic Studio ‘A” as opposed to the Music Row way of using studio musicians and heavy-handed producers. The following year in November, Stapleton shocked the world at the 2015 CMA Awards and really put a dagger in the back of Bro-Country.

Updated Artwork for 10th Anniversary of ‘Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

In 2014, we could have never imagined that just 10 years later, a non radio supported artist like Tyler Childers would be selling out arenas. With Sturgill as producer, Tyler took his album Purgatory, and tripled up on the impact of Metamodern Sounds by making a critically-acclaimed, but commercially successful release.

Now we have an artist like Zach Bryan playing arenas and stadium dates as the 2nd most popular artist in all of country music, and one of the most popular in music, period. You can draw a direct line from that success back to Sturgill Simpson and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.

Sure, technology had something to do with all of this as well, along with a general seismic shift in country music listening habits that took the power away from radio gatekeepers, and put that power in the hands of the people. But it was Metamodern Sounds that most assuredly lit the spark.

All the album really had to show for everything it did was a measly nomination for Best Americana Album at the 2015 Grammy Awards. But as we regularly see from the Grammys, they got a do over when Simpson released his next album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth in 2016. Sturgill not only was nominated and won the Best Country Album Grammy in 2017, he was nominated for the all-genre Grammy Album of the Year right beside Beyonce, Adele, Justin Bieber, and Drake.

Underground country was no longer underground. It was mainstream, and it was a shot across the bow of the Music Row country music establishment. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music went on to be named the #1 album in Saving Country Music’s Greatest Country Albums of the Decade (2010-2019), and #4 on the Greatest Country Concept Albums of All Time.

These days, Strugill claims to be retired as a solo artist, and is only playing a few festival gigs this summer. He didn’t really stick around to reap the rewards he sowed with Metamoden Sounds that has opened the music up, and among other things, resulted in massive 25,000-30,000 megafestivals all across the United States that cater to much of the music he inspired.

But 10 years after its release, the legacy of Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is already secured. And it’s sure to not wither anytime soon as the influence and impact continues to elongate over time like the ripples emanating from a stone cast into still water. Where those ripples eventually lead us, we can only wait and see.

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For the 10th anniversary, Sturgill Simpson has released a new video for “Turtles All The Way Down” with footnotes on the song and video.

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