Of Course Sturgill Simpson Couldn’t Stay Away. Welcome Johnny Blue Skies

Laur Joamets, Robbie Crowell, Kevin Black, Miles Miller, Sturgill Simpson


If there is one thing that’s constant in music, it’s that these folks just can’t stay away. It isn’t always a marketing scheme when we hear an artist say they’re releasing a final album, or going on a final tour, only to invariably see them re-emerge. Sometimes they truly believe their own retirement pronouncement too.

But making music is what musicians do. They create and they perform. How Barbara Mandrell has stayed gone and stuck to her guns for so long is the exception, not the rule, and one of the modern marvels of music. Even Robert Earl Keen swore up and down and was as emphatic as possible that when he said it was over, it was over. And this isn’t KISS, it’s Robert Earl Keen. Meanwhile he’s got a full calendar worth of shows and just played The Ryman.

Sturgill Simpson swore he’d etched out a five album cycle, starting with the Kentucky-inspired High Top Mountain (2013), and ending with the conceptualized Ballad of Dood & Juanita (2021), and after that, he was done. Granted, he did leave open a small window around the release of Dood & Juanita that he could return with a “band,” and now that’s exactly what he’s done. Welcome Johnny Blue Skies.

The name first appeared as a moniker when Simpson collaborated with the thrice accused rapist and EDM country interloper Diplo on the track “Use Me (Brutal Hearts).” Some people also observed that outside of Stagecoach Festival in Indio, CA in April, there was a Billboard that read, “Beware the dread pirate Johnny Blue Skies.” This same phrase appeared in the liner notes of Sturgill’s Grammy-winning album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.

Simpson announced on April 23rd that he was reuniting the most legendary version of his backing band with guitarist Laur Joamets, Kevin Black on bass, and Miles Miller on drums, and that they would play Outside Lands on California in August. This will officially be the nucleus of the Johnny Blue Skies band. Simpson has also confirmed that he will be playing his entire catalog on the tour, not just new music.

Keyboardist Robbie Crowell also joins the band. Known just as much as a drummer and bass player, the Nashville-based multi-instrumentalist has worked previously with Midland, Kesha, and Los Lobos, and well as being a long-time member of Deer Tick. Simpson has also announced a slew of new dates, as well as an album under the Johnny Blue Skies name. But the Outside Lands appearance will still be his first back.


As for the new album, it will be called Passage du Desir, and is out July 12th on Sturgill’s High Top Mountain Records. It was produced by Sturgill with long-time collaborator David Ferguson, and recorded at Nashville’s Clement House Recording Studio (a.k.a. “Cowboy Arms”) and London’s Abbey Road Studios.

Aside from those details and the eight song track list, we don’t have a whole lot of insight on what to expect from the new album. You can’t take it for granted that it will even be country. It’s probably a good bet that it will be a conceptualized song cycle of some sort. Sturgill Simpson may or may not release a single ahead of the album. He does things his way.

Passage du Desir is now available for pre-save and pre-order.

For tickets, pre-sale registration is open now until Monday, June 10, and the presale begins June 12 at 10 AM local. A “limited number” of tickets will then go on sale to the general public on June 14 at 10 AM local. Fans who purchase tickets on Ticketmaster will have the option to resell their tickets at the original price paid using Face Value Exchange. To protect the Exchange, Simpson has requested that all shows ticketed by Ticketmaster where Face Value Exchange can’t be mandated.

Track List:

01 Swamp of Sadness
02 If the Sun Never Rises Again
03 Scooter Blues
04 Jupiter’s Faerie
05 Who I Am
06 Right Kind of Dream
07 Mint Tea
08 One for the Road


Why Not? Tour Dates:

08-11 San Francisco, CA – Outside Lands
09-14 Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre
09-15 Santa Barbara, CA – Santa Barbara Bowl
09-17 West Valley City, UT – Maverik Center
09-19 Bend, OR – Hayden Homes Amphitheater
09-20 Quincy, WA – Gorge Amphitheatre *
09-22 Bonner, MT – KettleHouse Amphitheater
09-24 Moorhead, MN – Bluestem Center for the Arts
09-25 Minneapolis, MN – Roy Wilkins Auditorium
09-27 Lexington, KY – Rupp Arena
09-28 Detroit, MI – Fox Theatre
10-01 Chicago, IL – Salt Shed
10-02 Chicago, IL – Salt Shed
10-04 Brandon, MS – Brandon Amphitheater
10-06 Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Music Festival
10-08 Oklahoma City, OK – Criterion
10-09 Rogers, AR – Walmart AMP
10-13 Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Music Festival
10-15 St. Louis, MO – Fabulous Fox Theatre
10-18 Pittsburgh, PA – Petersen Events Center
10-21 Asheville, NC – Harrah’s Cherokee Center
10-22 Cary, NC – Koka Booth Amphitheatre
10-24 Duluth, GA – Gas South Arena
10-25 Nashville, TN – Bridgestone Arena
11-12 Philadelphia, PA – The Met
11-15 Hampton, VA – Hampton Coliseum
11-18 Washington, D.C. – The Anthem
11-20 Toronto, Ontario – Massey Hall
11-21 Toronto, Ontario – Massey Hall
11-23 Boston, MA – MGM Music Hall at Fenway

* with Lord Huron

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