Sturgill Simpson’s “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”
I hate writing reviews like this. So I’m supposed to sit here and peck out a bunch of words to convince you to buy this damn thing? … an album many people are calling a “masterpiece” and the “best album in years”? The only person’s opinion about Metamodern Sounds in Country Music that truly matters is Sturgill Simpson’s papaw—the guy that introduces this album at the beginning of the first track. And by all accounts, he’s beaming about it. And so that’s all you really need to know. If more country artists used their grandparents as barometers on quality, I could probably board this URL up and do something that actually pays.
Just go and buy this record already. I really don’t have much else else to add, except to say that all these people reciting that Sturgill is like a modern Waylon Jennings aren’t listening beyond shallow observances based on his voice. And yes, lizard aliens and LSD are loosely mentioned in first song “Turtles All The Way Down”, and maybe similar cosmic themes are touched on here and there. But I don’t feel comfortable calling Metamodern Sounds a concept album. Sturgill actually touches on a wide variety of subjects during these ten tracks. “Long White Line” is very much a traditional country traveling song, though there may be some deeper underlying themes present there. And “Pan Bowl” is a very personal account of Sturgill’s hometown. Metamodern Sounds isn’t “out there,” it’s right where it’s supposed to be.
And to all these people saying that this album is one of the best they’ve heard in years, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you, but I still hear much room for improvement. Then again, I’ve also seen Sturgill’s talents on full display. Even Sturgill says in the song “Life of Sin”, “And the boys and me are still working on the sound.” Sturgill is just now starting to hit is stride people, trust me. I’m half convinced half the things he does are just to screw with all of us. Once you realize that, then you really begin to unlock the true wisdom and enjoyment in his music. And before you go saying this is one of the best country records ever, understand Sturgill will likely have many more to come.
Or hopefully he will. Just five weeks ago, I got a smattering of emails from a group of attendees at a Sturgill concert that said he’d announced on stage that he was quitting music. Game over. Something about having a baby on the way and needing to “do the right thing” and contemplating moving back out West to work for the railroad again. Everyone said the show was great, but that Sturgill was moody, and left without shaking any hands. The next day Sturgill was on the radio in Kentucky for a lengthy interview, and I listened in intently, a draft of “Sturgill Simpson Quits Music” already in the works. And of course, he mentioned not a word along those lines. A couple of days later, NPR is premiering his video for “Turtles All The Way Down”, and next thing you know you can’t launch a web browser without seeing his name somewhere. Signal the all clear. Maybe it was just Sturgill’s way of getting us to not pay so much attention.
There are a few things that bother me with this album. Though the live approach of cutting the record in a few days with the band all together makes for a good feel for your recordings, I could have also seen splurging just a little bit to procure better backing vocals for the chorus in “A Little Light” and for the harmony line on the hidden track “Pan Bowl”. And here we go again with an album that has this tape hiss hampering the clarity of the recording throughout. Yes I get it, this hiss is the side effect of the “warmth” you get from a non-digital approach, and you’d rather deal with it than the alternative: a dead sound. But we’re making lots of albums that I’m afraid the future will look back on and wonder why we purposely made sound bad. There’s a balance here between analog and clarity that is being missed by some of the best albums being put out today. When Sturgill’s voice soars when he takes a chorus to his highest register, I just want to hear it without it getting corroded. Sure maybe it’s wishful thinking to even entertain this train of thought, but commercial radio will never get behind that hissey, “classic” sound.
“It Ain’t All Flowers” is the song on this album you’re going to either love or hate. Though some may think they hear turntable action and wonder if Sturgill has gone all hip-hop on us, the effects are more the result of tape playback and other audio hijinks. Not to level an accusation of predictability at Sturgill, but second albums from artists tend to include a stretching of boundaries so that they don’t become boxed into any sound that they then must be beholden to for the rest of their career. I don’t have a problem personally with “It Ain’t All Flowers”, though it does stretch out a little too long to where it begins to feel a little self-indulgent. I’ve also experienced this song live (at least I think it was this one), and it blew the doors off of the version that made it onto this recording.
Another polarizing decision for some will be the inclusion of 80’s one hit wonder When In Rome’s song “The Promise”. This is Sturgill teaching us all a lesson, and one we should heed. Every great song has a missive that resonates universally, and genres are just the clothing that make those missives more compatible to our familiarities. Sturgill and his band do more justice to this song than the original does.
With Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Sturgill Simpson doesn’t just capture our ears, he captures our imaginations. However misguided the notion is, most every disenfranchised country music fan harbors the idea that at some point some true country artist is going to come along that is so good, it is going to tip the scales back in the right direction. What Metamodern Sounds does is it gives the true country music listener hope beyond the happiness the music conveys. It resolves that ever-present conflict between sticking to the traditional sound, but progressing forward.
Sturgill Simpson’s first album High Top Mountain was just establishing the baseline. He was half bored with it himself by the time it was released. I was disheartened when I heard the rumors that Sturgill Simpson might be quitting music, but I wasn’t surprised. I remember sitting in a packed church cathedral in downtown Austin in March as part of Sturgill’s official SXSW showcase. It was completely quiet during and in between songs aside for the roaring applause right after each song, and after watching Sturgill play the first half dozen songs of the set, I truly wondered to myself, “Do I even like country music?” I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling Sturgill Simpson was wondering the same thing. Then he started to play some of the songs from Metamodern Sounds, and the answer became emphatically, “Yes!”
We’re just going to have to accept that Sturgill Simpson is a weird one: moody, dark, yet slowly trending toward some version of eternal optimism and happiness even the most cheerful and balanced among us will likely never achieve. “A picture’s worth 1,000 words, but a word ain’t worth a dime,” is what Sturgill says in one of the best-written songs on the album called “Voices”, and I can’t help but feel the barb of that song is pointed at people like me that start of by telling you they have nothing to say, and eight paragraphs later, still don’t feel like they’ve given you a proper summation of their thoughts.
It’s not time yet to be making comparisons to Red Headed Stranger, or even to Phases & Stages. These are things only time and history can decide. Yet Metamodern Sounds in Country Music hasn’t even been out for a full day, and it has already reached that critical mass state any independent release can, where no matter where you turn, you find people singing its praises. Where does Metamodern Sounds, Sturgill Simpson, and country music go from here? We’ll have to see. But right now, right at this very moment, not some famous son, not some Americana artist you have to squint at to construe as country, but Sturgill Simpson, and Sturgill Simpson alone, defines the pinnacle, and what is relevant in the here and now of independent country music. And he’s done it from the sheer strength of this album.
Two guns up.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
May 13, 2014 @ 9:58 am
It gets better with every listen.
May 13, 2014 @ 10:15 am
One of the best album’s I have ever heard. My wife thinks I am obsessed with it, but once you have heard it, you just have to keep listening to it. Excellent job Sturgill!
May 13, 2014 @ 10:38 am
I’m headed over to Grimey’s to pick up my “vinyl” copy and see him “in house” this evening. I’ve been listening to the downloaded version all day. I like it, a lot!!!
May 14, 2014 @ 6:31 am
Yesterday evening’s show was kick ass! Sturgill was blowing us away, and his band is HOT! Some fine ass musicians in that group. Got to talk to him a little after the show, he’s a nice guy, on top of all of that talent. Refreshing!!
May 13, 2014 @ 10:48 am
It’s one of my favorite albums ever. I can’t stop listening to it. Every song brings something to the table. It’s hard to pick a favorite on here. You described “It Ain’t All Flowers” perfectly. I’m one of the ones who loves it because it goes beyond one genre. It’s not just country music, but good music in general.
As far as him “quitting,” I’m speculating that the pressure of being in the spotlight so quickly is hard to handle for someone of his nature. I mean last year at this time many people had never heard of him. Now all of the sudden there’s a new article out about him everyday and people are showering him with praise. You can tell he didn’t get in this for the fame, but because he truly loves it and it shows through in his songs. This newfound fame has to be hard to handle (along with having a child on the way) and hope he can find a way to handle it well.
Go look at iTunes right now. “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” is #6 in the country album chart. That’s unbelievable. He went from never being heard of to having his album next to the sell outs of mainstream country music. I hope Sturgill continues to make more awesome music for years to come and his next album is even better. Go Sturgill!
May 13, 2014 @ 10:59 am
Outstanding stuff from Sturgill once again. Not much I can add to the chorus that is justifiably praising this album. Nice diversity in tracks. I think it’s got a little something for everyone.
It was a great thing this morning to see this at No. 6 on the iTunes country albums list and Dolly Parton at No. 3. We ain’t dead yet!
May 13, 2014 @ 11:15 am
You said a lot, Trig, so I won’t try and add to it much.
This is country music that let’s you tell people you’re a fan of country music and not feel embarrassed about it.
May 13, 2014 @ 11:18 am
Definitely a true Country artist, not some fake wanabe. Great music, like going back in time.
We definitely need more artists like Sturgill.
TX Music Jim
May 13, 2014 @ 12:23 pm
Dang, this is a good record long white line, my favorite song so far, off of this record is like stepping back to a time when country was country. I can’t help it Sturgill remainds me of Waylon. Just let go is a fine ballad love the steel work on this track.Sonically I kind of like the “analog hiss” you get with this record. It is how sure enough country records are supposed to sound. Gives one hope for country music as a genre. Pure greatness !
May 13, 2014 @ 12:39 pm
Sturgill spent 3days with us at our festival in Kilkenny, Ireland last week.Two wonderful solo gigs and good conversation. Real music for real people.
May 13, 2014 @ 12:46 pm
My wife and I spent a day in Kilkenny two summers ago… We took in some wonderful music in the pubs and then went on to Killarney, and up to Adare…
This album is great. I haven’t heard a bad word about it. Really good stuff.
May 13, 2014 @ 12:59 pm
Hope you make it back for our festival some time! Kilkenny Roots Festival. First weekend in May every year.
Cool Lester Smooth
June 16, 2015 @ 6:10 pm
Ugh, I guess I missed it this year.
Judging from the artist list, it must have been great craic.
May 13, 2014 @ 12:44 pm
I tried tempering my excitement about this project, but now I’m all in. Not since Hank III’s “Straight to Hell” have I had this much admiration for an album. I’m making everyone I know listen to it. Is it “a game changer”? Maybe. No reason Sturgill and “Metamodern Sounds” can’t pick up where Jamey Johnson left off in 08.
When is the cut-off date for CMA nominations?
May 13, 2014 @ 1:22 pm
We’re well within the CMA window, but I would caution that before we could even begin to think along those terms, Sturgill would have to find himself on mainstream radio and making such a racket that the industry would have no choice but to pay attention. It has happened before though. Even though Sturgill may be looming large in our little worlds right now, 99% of Americans have never heard of him. However, this album may change that.
I remember when Sturgill first released the song “Life Ain’t Fair & The World Is Mean” and it included the line “You won’t hear me on the radio, see me on the CMA,” I thought, “Why not?” Later he changed that line to “the new sound’s all the rage.” I just don’t see the reason to put limitations on anything.
It may not be with this album, but if Sturgill Simpson continues this level of growth, the sky is the limit.
May 13, 2014 @ 2:01 pm
What did it take for Jamey Johnson to get radio play? I know he had major label backing him that helped tremendously, but was there a ‘breakthrough’ moment that garnered him the attention necessary to hit the radio? I’m just curious what you think it would take to get Sturgill on mainstream radio.
May 13, 2014 @ 5:51 pm
Jamey Johnson’s real breakthrough was “In Color.”
It was his first and only top ten hit, at no. 9 on the charts.
The weird thing is that Jamey Johnson has actually only had four top 40 hits.
May 14, 2014 @ 1:15 am
Don’t forget “The Dollar” from 2006! I remember hearing that a lot at the time. Hard to equate it with the Jamey Johnson we know (and love) now!
May 20, 2014 @ 7:01 am
“Just because it’s not on the radio, doesn’t mean it’s not good” -Jamey Johnson
It has taken me a while to get used to, and OK with the statement above. Now, I live by it. I grew up with the “Class of ’89” Country Music. All my life, good music was on the radio. Until I became an adult and to close to 30 for comfort! Now, I am happy with the fact that people like Sturgill Simpson and Jamey Johnson, even Alan Jackson and Travis Tritt, aren’t on the radio. Them being on the radio means they’d have to become a sell out. A traitor of Country music. Look at Randy Houser, Tim McGraw, Jake Owen. All sell-outs. I get the gotta make a living, but still.
I am content never hearing country music radio again, unless this whole “fragmenting country music” thing works out. –
May 13, 2014 @ 8:12 pm
Being on a major label is key, though not required. And since Sturgill still owns all of his own publishing through Thirty Tigers, there’s no reason he couldn’t make the major label jump, and even with this album. This is exactly what Chase Rice did. He put out an EP through Thirty Tigers in October of 2013, and when he started to get a huge buzz, he was picked up by Columbia Nashville who is now promoting his single “Ready, Set, Roll”. Of course, Chase Rice was also a co-writer on Florida Georgia Line’s blockbuster song “Cruise”.
Right now the country music farm system mostly resides in songwriting channels. That is how both Jamey Johnson and Kacey Musgraves got the attention of the industry. They penned big songs for others, and then won their right to be performers. Honestly, I don’t see that happening with Sturgill. He’s too pure, and I don’t feel he has any motivation to play anyone else’s game just to get ahead. He’s just going to put out his music, and let the cards fall where they may. In many respects, that’s how Waylon did it in 1975, and he walked away with the CMA Male Vocalist trophy. But then again, he was on RCA, which in those years virtually ran the show.
This is all fun to talk about, but I think we all need to realize Sturgill has many more steps to go, and that he has different motivations not just from Chase Rice, but probably from Jamey Johnson. Nonetheless, it will be very interesting to study Sturgill’s rise. He will chart on Billboard with this release, where is still to be determined, and that’s when the real fun will start. Now that this album is out and he’s permeating the consciousness of independent channels, these matters of where he goes next is where the narrative surrounding him with turn.
May 14, 2014 @ 5:39 pm
June 30th is the end of the eligibility period. I knew it was soon cause I’m still mad about Strait’s 08 album ‘Twang’ falling out if that timeline, then forgotten. If some if this critical love can roll over into sales, Metamodern could be this year’s O’Brother or Lonesome Song or any Alison Krauss album ever recorded. Hey, a man can dream! It would be something country music lovers could root for instead of complain about.
May 13, 2014 @ 12:48 pm
I agree with you on the hissand dirty sound. … But I will say High top mountain was way to clean and did sla shitty job of captyring his register and voice…. Maybe a midground can be attained
May 13, 2014 @ 12:50 pm
please forgive spelling errors im on the fly
May 13, 2014 @ 1:21 pm
I cheated and listened to all of the songs on band camp and on NPR First Listen, and I’m still floored. Excellent work, Mr. Simpson. It’s nice to have an artist to get excited about these days and I look forward to the next chapter in the saga. This album is truly wonderful.
May 13, 2014 @ 1:49 pm
Love the album and I’m looking forward to many more great albums from Sturgill, as far as him quitting, unless I’ve been completely duped(which is not out of the realm of possibility) I believe he just released a statement on FB thanking fans for all their support and saying that he and the guys are anxiously looking forward to taking their show on the road for the rest of their lives.
May 13, 2014 @ 1:52 pm
My favorite album of the year so far, and it’s going to take another absolutely mind blowing album for anything else to even come close.
Personally, I don’t mind the tape hiss, but then again I also spend a lot of time listening to old Darkthrone albums and such, so my ears are kinda conditioned to that sound. I can definitely see how that production choice might limit some of the albums potential audience on the mainstream side of the fence … but, ehh, it sounds good to me.
May 13, 2014 @ 2:17 pm
I liked the music a lot, just like I did with Sturgill’s first CD.
The man is a true talent.
I didn’t like the hiss and I wondered whether I had a scratched CD until you mentioned it in your review, Trig.
I stumbled across a used copy of this in a bin in a used CD store in Memphis and I snatched it up – not knowing it hadn’t been released for sale yet.
I would sure like to catch Sturgill in concert.
May 13, 2014 @ 2:22 pm
Nice review. Liked the album a lot the first listen through. LOVE it after listening to it several dozen times.
Just saw where Sturgill gave you a well deserved shout out on Facebook, Trigger.
May 13, 2014 @ 2:28 pm
This cat comes in shooting’ up the town like Billy Joe Shaver on peyote.
Sounds like an original who has paid his dues. Hide yer chillun, here comes a poet. Like when Dylan went electric, the rules get changed. 3 thumbs up.
May 13, 2014 @ 3:18 pm
That’s “Cooter” from The Dukes of Hazzard and the former US Congressman giving Sturgill 3 thumbs up!
May 13, 2014 @ 3:07 pm
Would just like to point out that Sturgill is now up to #5 on the iTunes country albums chart… one spot ahead of Luke Bryan.
Don’t know how long that will last, but it sure does make me happy. Small victories!
May 13, 2014 @ 3:13 pm
There is little doubt something special is happening when love and truth are the main motivators, whether that something is music or being a father or just a ‘normal’, good person. He could walk away today and we have three albums to last the rest of our lives, more than enough for me. I hope he does whatever his heart tells him is right, even though I still hope there will be many more songs.
Watching the momentum, we know there comes a point when speed wobbles set in. Whether at the end its a train wreck or a cool new thing isn’t up to anyone on this planet. CMAs are not the point, being able to take care of your family by performing art for a living is. The fact that he’s helping to make the world a better place along the way with all of us getting to enjoy it, well, shucks.
May 13, 2014 @ 8:25 pm
Well said Will.
May 14, 2014 @ 6:01 pm
CMA nomination or not, it’s a great album I can’t stop listening to it or sharing it with friends. With that said, I think the mob is ready for some representation in November. It’s nice for us to want to see Metamodern be nominated and hope for it’s success than just bitch about Jason Aldean or Luke Bryan or FGL.
Furthermore, a no nation would pay for a lot of diapers.
May 13, 2014 @ 3:39 pm
This isn’t gonna be a popular comment, but “Turtles All The Way Down” ruined Sturgill Simpson and this album for me. I found it to be thematically disagreeable to the point that it creeps through if I listen to any of his other music.
May 13, 2014 @ 5:35 pm
I can understand that viewpoint. He makes some polarizing observations and comments in the song, though I would stress as Sturgill has in interviews that the message all resolves to “love” and that this is what the underlying message of the song is more so than drugs, religious views, or reptile aliens. You could also question putting this song out first in both the track list and releases, but I almost think you have to, because appeal wise, it’s probably one of the strongest tracks, and it may be even more misunderstood in the middle of the album.
May 13, 2014 @ 6:31 pm
FYI “Living the dream” was the first release not Turtles
May 13, 2014 @ 8:26 pm
Yeah, but with the video and such, and being the first track, it seems like this is where they’re putting the most emphasis.
May 15, 2014 @ 2:16 pm
@ Bill #2 – I’m glad I’m not the only one that felt this way. To me it is a polarizing song lyrically. Even though the message in the end is about love, it takes some snipes at my personal religious views that just rubbed me the wrong way. Right now I’m not planning on purchasing the album. I’m not sure why he felt he had to do this lyrically as I don’t sense any hint of it on “Hightop Mountain.” I just feel let down by the lyrical themes in this track that everybody else seems to have nothing but high praise for. I’m not questioning the man’s talent, he has a marvelous amount, and he could be a powerful force for moving country in the right direction, but I have trouble putting something on my ipod that just rubs me the wrong way like this.
May 15, 2014 @ 4:33 pm
Wow just wow on those comments. So an artist shouldn’t write about his personal beliefs or history? How that could ruin an entire album for someone is just unbelievable to me. Some of my favorite songs deal with faith ,and I’m an Atheist ,because I can feel how much that song means to the artist singing it. When I go to an Avett show I get shivers listening to them do A closer walk with thee not because I agree with the sentiment but because of their obvious connection to the song. But that’s just me and to each their own.
May 15, 2014 @ 4:42 pm
Hey Brad, I totally respect where you are coming from. Maybe I should clarify – any artist is free to sing about whatever he wants. I am not for any censorship, even on something like black metal that may be totally anti-christian in lyrical content. I just choose not to buy stuff like that. I don’t listen to strictly Christian artists. I really don’t enjoy potshots at my beliefs. My quandary becomes do I skip the whole album, or just that song? I support Sturgill completely in that he is a fresh new voice in country music, but I may have to pass on this album.
May 15, 2014 @ 4:54 pm
This is why I am generally against mentioning any political or religious ideologies in music, even if it is something that I personally agree with, because it inevitably is going to agitate people and create barriers between the enjoyment of the music. Like you said, you can ignore this song, but it may keep you from the entire album because it’s always there in the back of your head. My counsel would be to not let that happen because Sturgill’s music is just too valuable, but if it does, I’ll understand, because similar feelings have kept me from albums from Hank Williams Jr. and Steve Earle, even though their ideologies were on the polar opposite of each other.
I also think you really have to try and understand the message of that song. As Sturgill has said, it’s not pro drug or anti-religion, it is about the universatility (made up word) of love.
December 23, 2014 @ 6:52 am
I just had to come back to this thread and say I gave in and bought the album. The tipping point was listening to “It Ain’t All Flowers.” It’s my favorite track on the album. Listening to some interviews with Sturgill also made a difference for me. Ultimately, this is one intelligently written collection of music. It definitely tackles some subject material that is not normally found in country and that makes it even better. Right now, I just can’t stop listening to it. I’ve even come to love “Turtles”.
December 23, 2014 @ 9:50 am
I have been arguing this point for a bit on YouTube on a video I posted as well. Some people are really put off. To me that means its good music. If he pulls emotion out of you makes you think then that’s what that song in particular song is about. I think most will find if they really listen that he isn’t saying anything other than articulating his search for truth. His journey and the stops along the way. I even think that the lyric in question “Old man in the sky” is not a statement but another outside opinion that has no real bearing on TRUTH such as the title does. Turtles all the way down means that none of us really know shit. just love each other. Glad to see you gave in a bit Randy. And coming back here to post shows Integrity. Good shit
May 15, 2014 @ 10:15 pm
That was pretty much my complaint.
May 16, 2014 @ 6:57 am
been waiting for this discussion to come up, impressed with the level of discourse here. Respect to all people and their beliefs…
For me it was important to notice the references promoting his experiences with god as much as the references possibly expressing doubts about god. “But I swear that God is there every time I glare into the eyes of my best friend” seems like a very reverent tone to me, while “…and reminded of the pain caused by some old man in the sky” might sound accusatory- but is it the old man who caused the pain or our interpretations of ‘him’ that we have been fighting over for a couple thousand years?
Most of us have reason to question our beliefs at times during our lives, and in the context of the song a Christian god doesn’t appear to be held to any different standard than the other metaphysical theories mentioned.
Good art should make us question things, discomfort is but one aspect of the learning process that is life.
Just for the record- A Little Light and especially Just Let Go make me feel closer to god than I may have ever felt before in my whole life. We all take different paths…
May 13, 2014 @ 4:46 pm
Turles all the way down is such an awesome song it’s the only one I’ve heard from the new album and I’m definitely going to buy it. I really like the psychedelic nature of the song and video. Need to see him live something soon thats for sure.
May 13, 2014 @ 5:29 pm
I figured out what the solution to the hiss is. Tinnitus. I’ve got it and can’t hear it. Damn good record.
December 23, 2014 @ 7:19 am
Man, that’s great news. I’m jealous.
Actaully, I have a little tinnitus myself, but still hear the hiss. Doesn’t bother me that much.
May 13, 2014 @ 6:39 pm
Seen it more than once, “It gets better with each listen.” A sure sign of a classic, in my opinion. Only minus and that Trigger pointed out, not sure about the production here and there. I haven’t been able to listen to higher quality digital files yet, but I swear I hear distortion here and there, which seems impossible if this was recorded on analog equipment. Anyone else?
May 13, 2014 @ 8:30 pm
Yes, I’m hearing distortion in a number of places, especially when Sturgill’s voice rises. I don’t want to get myself in trouble by trying to diagnose it and showing my shortcomings in knowledge with recording gear, but I do think it would have been better if the audio was a bit more clear, whatever it took to do that. However great songs always power through whatever limitations. Overall, I would say I like the production, just not that one aspect of it.
TX Music Jim
May 14, 2014 @ 7:56 am
Trig, what i am hearing isn’t production issues but perhaps a natural raspiness to Sturghill’s voice in the higher registers. Which I like because it raw and real vs. slick and over produced.
May 14, 2014 @ 10:32 am
I’m not a sound engineer, but I do work with video and work with audio a bit. This sounds a lot like digital clipping. You can hear it in more than a few places in “Voices”. With digital audio there’s no overhead. Zero is the ceiling and if you try to push it past that, this clipping/distorted sound occurs. This is not the case with analog, which is weird because I thought that I had read that this album was recorded on analog equipment? I don’t know enough about the process to know whether or not this clipping can be introduced in the analog to digital conversion. Anyway, I don’t want to cause a stink over this. I’m still in love with this release. Big time! But it does make me cringe a bit when I hear these moments, especially with headphones.
May 15, 2014 @ 5:57 am
Clipping is usually introduced during the mastering process, this is pretty common and is a bi product of the “loudness war”. It’s caused by increasing the overall volume of the masters to be at a louder volume than what they were recorded at, and in the louder places on the recording, it causes distortion. On this one it seems to be Sturgill’s vocals. For me it is noticeable, but doesn’t take away from the recording at all, it really adds an effect that I don’t mind on this one, as strange as that may sound. I have this on vinyl, but haven’t gotten around to listening yet to see if it is still there.
May 15, 2014 @ 7:52 am
Out of curiosity, I opened the FLAC files of these tracks with audacity. The wave forms look pretty bad, and just as I thought, looks like the volume was increased to max. There is very little out right clipping, but the wave forms through out hit maximum peak and flat line, which also causes distortion… Still though, this is my favorite album of the year so far. Hopefully the vinyl will not be as loud. If not, Ill make myself a digital rip of that.
May 15, 2014 @ 8:49 am
Good insight Nathan. Yes, the “loudness” might be the issue and not necessarily the analog his. Or a combination of both. It’s a little disappointing we’re having this conversation about an album that we hope is a landmark one, but I still the the strength of the songs and the entire project are powering through.
May 13, 2014 @ 6:40 pm
Im glad hes at #5 on the country chart but he is #20 in ALL music albums.. on itunes that equally impressive
May 13, 2014 @ 6:44 pm
Trigg, once more fantastic write up. If you keep up with Sturgill on social media, he said earlier he can’t be the savior, only the fans can and that we would be the ones that make the changes. With that said, if this genius of a man keeps making music like this, he will be the savior because we will make him that. When I look at iTunes top albums and top country albums, I’m blown away. The man has the 24th best selling album on iTunes and the 5th best selling country album! This is easy to understand as the album is fantastic! I’ve listened to it all day and even had my boss asking me who it was because it was as he put it, “That’s damn good!” I honestly wish nothing but the best for this man and much continued success!
May 13, 2014 @ 6:48 pm
Personally, I don’t think Sturgill sounds like Waylon at all when he sings. The musical arrangements are what remind me of Waylon (at least High Top Mountain, anyway). While I enjoyed his debut, I was a tad disappointed in what I felt was its inherent predicability. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music doesn’t quite buck this trend but it gets close. My favorite tracks are “Turtles All the Way Down,” “It Ain’t All Flowers” and “Pan Bowl.” I find the opening track to be profound, which is rare for a country song given how low-scale they tend to be. His statements in the song are as bewildering as they are fascinating, which makes the song extremely memorable and also relatable (to me). “It Ain’t All Flowers” is that song that sounds modern and classic at the same time to my ear. Despite the claims that all of Sturgill’s music features such a combination, I rarely hear it; here it was obvious. That said, I’ll agree that it goes on for too long and the last two minutes or so sounded like an outtake from Eric Church’s The Outsiders. Lastly, there’s “Pan Bowl”; even though I consider myself a serious music fan, I’d be lying if I said that every time I listened to a song or album that I felt I knew exactly what the artist was trying to say. This is one of those songs for me. Even though I don’t share many of Sturgill’s life experiences, I could hear feelings in his voice that recalled some of my own memories, which was beautiful. THAT is what music is about.
It’s interesting that you don’t seem to understand why Sturgill went with an analog recording method, Trigger. You seem to answer your own question when you stated that you were “half convinced half the things he does are just to screw with all of us.” I think the whole idea of this album is the modern clashing (or blending, depending on how you see it) with the classic. Take the album cover, for instance: here, it’s fairly obvious that Sturgill is contrasting the past (a tintype) with the future (space and all of its possibilities). With the sound, Sturgill is playing with inherently “modern” sounds whilst grounding them in an obsolete recording process. Also, the album starts with a track pondering life as we know it and ends with one that looks back on his own. You might not call this a concept album but that’s what it strikes me as. That said, the hissing and distortion grate my ears just as much as they do yours. High Top Mountain was relatively clean and clear compared to this, which led to my thinking that it was a part of the theme of the album.
As to the “one artist to unite us all and bring quality back into the mainstream,” that’s never going to happen for obvious reasons. If we were to extend that idea to anyone it would have to be Jamey Johnson and we all know how that turned out.
May 13, 2014 @ 7:18 pm
Well in regards to your last point about finding the artist to bring quality back to mainstream country, Sturgill said it best on a Facebook post today. He said he is not the “savior” and no single artist can be. It’s the fans who have to be the “savior” of country music. And he’s right. All we can do is spread the word on guys like Sturgill and Isbell and hope people start to catch on. If enough fans get behind an artist, eventually the mainstream has to pay attention. Of course it’s a long shot, but I like to think the cream always rises to the top.
May 13, 2014 @ 11:10 pm
I read that post. With that in mind, my point about Jamey was simply that he is a traditionalist artist that many people got behind and are still supportive of. The mainstream paid attention for a while as a result. But when it comes right down to it, mainstream country music has never been worse than at this point in time. Does that mean that it can’t change? No, but it’s highly unlikely, if only because so many people outside the genre are attracted to the “new sound” because it’s basically what they get from pop/hip hop/rap radio stations.
May 14, 2014 @ 10:12 am
The key words are “people outside the genre.” As you said they’re attracted to this new sound. Right now it’s the popular flavor, so many are flocking to it. However a new sound will come along eventually, whether it be country, pop or another genre, and take their attention away. The “fans” of Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Brantley Gilbert are a fickle bunch. I know this because my brother is part of this group. I’ve watched him hop from fad to fad in music over the years. This popular sound will last a little longer and then go away. And that’s when country will have an opportune time to find itself again.
May 14, 2014 @ 12:34 am
I really enjoyed Sturgill’s Facebook message to his fanbase, and I reccomend any fan to read it. It’s clear that he’s overwhelmed by the huge influx of support he has received, and as you say, he puts the onus on the fans to support and spread the word about the music. Here’s a link to his comment, if anyone’s interested:
Unsurprisingly, the Facebook page is littered with suppostive comments like, “I stopped listening to country music twenty years ago, when that paunchy guy was singing into a wireless headset mic, but now that I’ve heard your record, I’m back to loving it again,” and so on.
Regarding “one artist to unite us all and bring quality back into the mainstream,” it seems like what Sturgill’s doing is proving it’s possible to be a legit success as a country artist without having to be a part of the mainstream country music infrastructure. (This is not an original opinon, Trigger has said as much.) You don’t have to actively follow underground country websites or scenes to know about Sturgill at this point: his name is starting to getting out there in the mainstream.
To me, Sturgill’s success provides a model for what the independent country music community might seek to acheive moving forward. Even if we can’t wrest the control of terrestrial radio out of the hands of the corporate oligarchy, we can hopefully learn how to promote and disseminate information about indpendent country music artists to the point where independent country music is an option everyone knows about, which is how it is in the rock world. I think that alone would do alot for the prestige and respectablility of the genre. And by the way, if Sturgill is somehow able to sneak is way on to a radio playlist, or a CMA nomination, all the better.
Finally, I wonder if ol’ Sturg will be making any appearances on network TV to promote “Metamodern Sounds.” Come on, Letterman would LOVE this guy!
May 14, 2014 @ 6:23 pm
“The key words are “people outside the genre.” As you said they”™re attracted to this new sound. Right now it”™s the popular flavor, so many are flocking to it. However a new sound will come along eventually, whether it be country, pop or another genre, and take their attention away. The “fans” of Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Brantley Gilbert are a fickle bunch. I know this because my brother is part of this group. I”™ve watched him hop from fad to fad in music over the years. This popular sound will last a little longer and then go away. And that”™s when country will have an opportune time to find itself again.”
I agree with the “fickle” allegiance of your average mainstream music fan, but I think you’re overselling it a tad. Some of them might jump ship, but enough of them have been around for long enough that certain people love to complain about the “last 20 years” of country music being “bad,” but there’s still an audience for it. I’d say that most fans will agree that it’s been steadily degrading since then. Others love to say it started before that. Either way, I’m not seeing this sound “going away” since it has evolved to suit mainstream music tastes just like every other genre. The problem is simply that its evolving outside of the genre.
May 13, 2014 @ 9:25 pm
What? Jamey Johnson isn’t dead. I agree, I don’t think that Sturgill sounds like Waylon. An artist doesn’t have to sound like someone we love and admire for them to sound good. For an artist to have any kind of impact, he has to be unique in sounds and styles. If he sounds like and reminds the media of someone else then he will never be more than average.
May 13, 2014 @ 11:04 pm
I’m a little confused here: when did I say or even imply that Jamey Johnson is dead? I was simply referring to the fact that there were camps that were opposed to his success, deeming him bland and uninteresting as well as the fact that the man hasn’t exactly put out any new material recently. Not that he can’t get back on, but he’s essentially fallen off the horse. Also, I think you took my “doesn’t sound like Waylon” statement in a different way than I was intending. Trigger was coming down on those that have drawn comparisons to Waylon about Sturgill in the past and I was one of those individuals. However, I wasn’t coming to that conclusion based on his vocals, as Trigger implies. I arrived at that conclusion based on his sound, which I find to have more of a tribute album quality to it than the “progressive traditionalism” that everyone else keeps claiming is there. Of course, I’m no country music historian so I don’t guess I would know. Whatever my opinion of his sound, Sturgill has proven himself unique with this album.
May 14, 2014 @ 2:04 pm
I agree on him not sounding like Waylon on most songs, but on “The Promise” I was blown away at how much he sounded like Waylon. You could have told me it was an unreleased Waylon track and I would have believed it.
May 13, 2014 @ 7:21 pm
Trigger, I was at the church in Austin during SXSW as well. To label it as silent during and in between songs is….a stretch. I think a lot of it had I do with it being in a church for one, maybe Sturgill dropping GD in his first song threw some first timers for a loop whilst sitting in a pew as well. There was some cheering and applause. I know, because I was one of the ones cheering along. I think the venue is really what threw things off. I also saw the guy next to me throwing up his hands during a couple songs as to say “what the hell is he saying?!”. Which is understandable as many of you probably know. His low tone and drawl can send you for the volume knob during a few tunes until you get it. After a few more hand tossings the group walked out. Pffff. Later. Anyway, I for one hope he plays until he can’t, because I can’t get enough as is!!! Rock on Sturg!!
May 13, 2014 @ 8:36 pm
I apologize if my characterization of the concert came across as people were somehow disappointed with his SXSW performance. That is not what I meant by the “silence” at all. I was simply trying to paint a picture of the unusual nature of the performance space, being in a church, and being almost completely silent during and in-between songs, aside from the applause after each song. In fact I may change that part of the review (which is something I rarely or ever do), just to make sure I don’t allude that to anyone. I thought it was an excellent music experience, though I did fell what I believed was boredom coming from me and the stage for the first few songs.
May 13, 2014 @ 8:34 pm
I love the album. Nothing more to say than that.
May 13, 2014 @ 10:42 pm
It ain’t all flowers reminds me of a song Ween would have done which in my opinion was one of the most innovative bands in my generation, I love the new album can’t help but share in the excitement everyone is expressing on here. I think sturgill is the next new and exciting breath of fresh air a lot of people have been waiting for… Not to say there isn’t a lot of great music out there but I haven’t felt like this about an album or an artist since Hank IIIs straight to hell
May 13, 2014 @ 11:47 pm
“If we were to extend that idea to anyone it would have to be Jamey Johnson and we all know how that turned out.”
My response to the above quote was sarcasm. Jamey Johnson disappear on us, true, but he has not been gone that long to warrant a statement like that, regardless of how it is meant. Then too, in my opinion, Sturgil is good, but he is no Jamey Johnson. My only drawback with Jamey is that he is not that electrifying in concert. Based on everything I am reading, it appears neither is Sturgil Simpson. So quite frankly, in my opinion, they are not even in the same category. Everyone appears to be excited about Sturgil, and I can understand why. His album is good, and I too am enjoying it.
As for me making comparison to Waylon. You said,
“Personally, I don”™t think Sturgill sounds like Waylon at all when he sings. The musical arrangements are what remind me of Waylon (at least High Top Mountain, anyway).”
I did not disagree with you I agreed with you. I’ve been a fan of Waylan since I was thirteen years old. I’ve listen to Sturgil and I don’t see Waylan in him in any shape, sound, style or form. Sturgil sounds like Sturgil, which is good for him. He sounds good. He sounds country, but he sounds like himself. If he is going to make some noise in Nashville, then it is crucial that he is unique.
May 14, 2014 @ 1:19 am
I also give it two guns up! What I love about Sturgill is the fact that he can really cut it live too. I saw him in London earlier in the year, just him and his guitar, and he was fantastic in that acoustic setting. Talking afterwards I suggested that he could record an all-acoustic version of “High Top Mountain” and I’d happily buy it!
May 14, 2014 @ 1:51 am
Greetings from Munich, Germany.
I first heard “High Top Mountain” at the beginning of this year and it blew me away. I’ve been following what they call “alt.country” for quite a while (beginning with “There Is No One What Will Take Care Of You” in … 93, was it?), but i never knew I actually could adore Country without the “alt.” safety word.
So I searched what I could find about Sturgill and stumbled upon your wonderful website. I’ve since used this site to discover so many artists we hardly get to hear about in Europe. Joseph Huber, Pokey LaFarge, Lydia Loveless – a new world has opened up for me. When I tell my friends that I’ve been seriously getting into Country they look at me like I’m crazy – all they know is the cheesy chart stuff that makes it over here. I’ll soon be hosting my first Country/Bluegrass/alt.folk – night in a Munich hipster club and this is all down to Sturgill and your great site, Trigger. (If I don’t lose money I’ll donate a percentage, promised)
Keep up the great work, and thanks! Really!
May 14, 2014 @ 8:41 am
Glad you found the site Henning!
May 14, 2014 @ 3:18 am
whats really important is that one of our own may get a nod at “emerging artist” 2014 ACM awards.
May 14, 2014 @ 4:57 am
What strikes me — aside from the songwriting — is the musicianship. I think that’s what he shares with Waylon more then anything; trailblazing guitar work paired with gusty songs.
I think the production choices are stunning as well. For example the double dubbing of the lead parts in a couple of tracks really pulled me in. It’s one of a handful of C&W records that grabs me musically as well as lyrically — this is just a stunning accomplishment and a truly brilliant piece of music. It’s flaws work in it’s favor. If anything it’s about 10 minutes too short, but there’s something to be said for leaving ’em wanting more.
May 14, 2014 @ 5:19 am
I was lucky enough to get the album a few weeks ago when Sturgill played the Southgate House Revival in Newport, KY (autographed it, too). Having a little trouble warming up to It Ain’t All Light. Otherwise, it’s worth every penny and then some.
May 14, 2014 @ 5:22 am
Neither Sturgill nor this album give me any hope at all. All they do is reinforce my preconceived notion that Country Music is dead, and that the best I can expect from a traditional Country singer is an imitation of a past legend. And I don’t care if the opinion I hold was already dismissed in the review; it’s reality.
Of course I like his style, but it was already someone else’s style. Also, why does it seem like almost all of the male singers, traditional or otherwise, only go back as far as 1974. It’s like they think the “outlaw” stuff is the definition of Country. Where’s the fiddles? Where’s the 4/4 shuffles? There ought to be at LEAST one. And yes, he can sing; but he sounds like someone else who was more talented. So, what’s the point? If this guy was playing in a local bar, I’d be happy to pay a cover charge to hear some Country Music, but I’ll never lay down a dime on any of his recordings or a concert ticket. I have been listening to Country Music all my life; it’s like a religion to me. So, it takes a lot more than just being traditional to impress me.
This notion that Sturgill or any other singer could save Country Music couldn’t be more ridiculous. In case everybody has already forgot, we already had many talented artists (Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Mark Chesnutt, and Randy Travis to name a few) that the radio quit playing for no reason. Heck they even quit playing Merle long before he was a senior citizen. Country Music can’t be saved because most people don’t want to hear it. I suspect that the human brain is devolving, which is causing our various cultures to melt into one. That includes the music. Does anybody really think that some 20-year-old jack off, with a flat-billed backwards cap, is gonna hear Sturgill Simpson and think: “wow, I love Country Music”? I damn sure doubt it.
May 14, 2014 @ 7:17 am
He has covered Ralph Stanley and Carter Stanley.. Who recorded long before 74 ..Noone does that anymore.
. Go see him live then form your opinion. But you had better hurry he wont be in $ 10 venues for much longer.. edjucate yourself..
you forgot the man who MADE all those greats you mentioned in Kieth Whitley who is Sturgills biggest influence.
May 14, 2014 @ 9:30 am
Sir, telling me to educate myself won’t carry any weight until you learn to spell: educate.
My reference to 1974 was about more than just Sturgill; though it’s obvious who he idolizes most. It just seems like every time I hear some new Country moron name dropping a legend or covering one, it’s almost always Waylon and/or Willie.
Yes, I’m aware that “Long White Line” is a Moore and Napier song; and I prefer their version.
May 14, 2014 @ 10:09 am
If your truly country and have those values I am sure you’ve heard the phrase
“If you have nothing nice to say then say nothing at all”
Your reaching, sorry butt you are..
Tell you what Ill pay for your tickets to go and see him then you tell me.
And I’m not Joking!!!
May 14, 2014 @ 3:00 pm
Clint, you do tend to lean on the negative side. For the most part, I dislike that. Even though your words could have been kinder, I however, I agree with you to to a certain extent. I do not think that Sturgill sounds like Waylon, his music. His music does not have that intensity or that bad boyness that characterizes Waylan’s music. There is and will only be one Waylon. I disagree that Sturgill sounds like someone previous. He does not. He sounds unique and different. I like him. As to whether he is going to be appreciated by the mass, let’s hope so. If so, then there is hope for SCM. So Sturgill is unique, to me and different. However, I watched and listened to him closely to see what I am missing with this Waylon comparison. What I did notice, which I did not notice in a more casual observance, is that he appeared to have a tad bit of Waylon Jennings’ mannerism. I could be wrong, if I am, I apologize. If I am correct, when an artist imitate another artist in any form, the only person’s career he is helping is the artist he is imitating.
May 14, 2014 @ 4:44 pm
Go to Jack williams link below ( or above) I can assure you he is in no way Trying to imitate Waylon Jennings…
Im with you I dont think he saound much like him. Attitude, purpose.. maybe
“The dirt dont hurt the way I sing”
May 14, 2014 @ 4:47 pm
May 15, 2014 @ 10:49 am
I stand firmly behind everything I said, but don’t misunderstand me Sonas: I’d be tickled pink to hear Sturgill on the radio, because he’s infinitely better than what’s on there now.
May 15, 2014 @ 1:48 pm
See Clint, that’s the kind of pragmatism we need to save country music. I can’t argue with you to love Sturgill Simpson, but we can all agree as concerned country fans that he’s so much better.
May 15, 2014 @ 2:39 pm
I understand your point, but for me, just being better than what’s on radio won’t make me spend my money. To my ears, he sounds too much like someone else, so if I want to hear that sound, I’ve already got plenty of music by that someone else.
There’s not a lack of traditional Country singers out there; so having more of them won’t save Country Music. I don’t believe it can be saved, unless some really rich guy, who loves Country Music more than money, buys every label in Nashville. And Country Music lovers would have to infiltrate the two major radio companies.
May 14, 2014 @ 10:26 am
You’re are a hard one, Clint. 😉
Here’s an article that, among other things, includes Sturgill addressing the comparisons to Waylon. Thought you might find it interesting.
May 14, 2014 @ 10:31 am
Oops. Here’s the full link.
May 15, 2014 @ 6:31 am
I read the article, and I swear I chuckled out loud a little bit when he said that Waylon was the singer he listened to the least. I think he’s lying through his teeth about that.
May 15, 2014 @ 11:24 am
Jeese Clint. Whether Sturgill is willing to admit it or not, I am sure he is keeping post on what is going on here at SCM. Outlaw country, underground country is his genre, like it or not. For the most part, we are the people buying his CD. I am sure he realize this and I am sure he is keeping up with our comments. So come on Clint, show a little respect. If you don’t like his music, you still have to admit this is a good album, and it is evidently the result of some hard work. He deserve better than your constant sarcasm.
The thing I don’t get is, why can’t Sturgill be reinforcement? Why can’t he just be another arsenal in our fight to save country music? Why can’t he be someone that is furthering in our hopes, a talent added to our pool? Why does he have to dethrone someone? Why is it that he now becomes the torchbearer, the burden carrier, the person who is going to save country music? As long as we have this mental disposition, we will never be taken seriously. We will be taken seriously when not just one artist is making noise down here, but, well, more than one or two or three.
May 15, 2014 @ 12:32 pm
I don’t know how else to say what I think except to just say it. I don’t recall being sarcastic; I completely serious when I say something.
Also, if you’ll read my comments again, you’ll find that I never said he wasn’t talented.
May 16, 2014 @ 6:39 pm
When did Waylon ever sound like this? http://youtu.be/-FcI0voDjts
If he’s making up his bluegrass influences, he’s a damn good liar.
May 14, 2014 @ 10:39 am
Who in your opinion would be the best to save country music? Do you think that the recent female singers, such as Kacey Musgraves, will help spread true country music?
By the way, cultural amalgamation is a natural process in a melting pot society like ours, not a sign of “brain devolution”. On the other hand, the lyrics in the bro-country songs truly do make one wonder…
May 15, 2014 @ 6:53 am
Like I said Eric, I don’t believe it will, or even can be saved. The point I was trying to make is that there’s never been a lack of people wanting and willing to sing real Country Music. The problem is that the people running the show have put money before music. They’d rather change the style to bring in people who don’t even like Country Music, than to just be satisfied making Country Music for all the people who really love it.
Also, I’m not sure you’re completely right about that cultural amalgamation thing. The lines between all the various cultures in America are almost completely gone, and it’s happened so fast. Maybe technology and mass communication caused it, because it seems to me like it began to snowball 10 to 15 years ago; and it’s only getting faster and faster. If I can drive through any small town in Arkansas, and see country kids with their britches hanging off their ass, and their caps turned backwards or sideways, things are definitely getting strange.
May 16, 2014 @ 1:34 pm
Clint I disagree with your conclusion, but I commend you for knowing what you’re talking about. Country music never died and doesn’t need saving, it’s just gone off the radio. I agree with your point that most people just don’t want to hear it, broadly speaking. No offense to the young’uns.
Thanks for mentioning the oldhat mainstream country artists who are keeping country alive, fame and financial ramifications be damned.
May 17, 2014 @ 5:07 am
I’m curious; what exactly do you disagree with, and why?
May 14, 2014 @ 5:22 am
The album is great. Just Let Go reminds me of the Tool song Third Eye.
May 14, 2014 @ 5:23 am
I just called my local Clear Channel country station and requested Turtles all the way Down. The guy answering the phone was polite and said he would make note of it.
Bigfoot is Real (yup..)
May 14, 2014 @ 6:28 am
Trigger this the best review you have ever written. Seriously. Wow!
May 14, 2014 @ 7:26 am
This is a great album. Having heard it on NPR, I believe it may be one of the best albums in years, right up there with Brandy Clark.
I had previously been lukewarm on Sturgill Simpson, due to the fact that despite his stellar lyricism I was not too fond of his sonic style. However, he has really won me over here by focusing more on melodic beauty and less on a “bluesy” style. The diverse instrumental combinations used to create these melodies serve as a cherry on the top.
May 14, 2014 @ 8:32 am
I will add that “The Promise” has long been one of my favorite 80s songs. Even so, it is remarkable how profound and emotive Sturgill made it sound, which speaks to both Sturgill’s talent as well as the fundamental strength of the song.
Other favorites of mine are “Turtles All the Way Down” (I love the airy, progressive sound), “Voices”, “Just Let Go”, and most of all “Pan Bowl”.
May 14, 2014 @ 9:29 am
There are three things that every great country artist from the Carter Family to Waylon, Willie and everyone else has had:
1) A humble connection to and respect for their roots
2) A willingness to work hard to earn the respect and admiration of their fans
3) A “don’t give a shit what the big-shots in the big cities say is popular” attitude.
Does Sturgill Simpson pass the test?
1) He has working-man’s roots and a desire and apparent willingness to return to a labor job if it’s the “right thing” to do. Anyone remember Dave Dudley? Truck driver, became popular as a singer, remained a card-carrying member of the Teamsters the whole time. Bill Monroe – when you caught him at home, he’d out-work a man half his age. Sturgill Simpson has made it clear that he isn’t above his raising or the chance to make a hard-earned dollar at honest work. PASS.
2) If Sturgill were more connected to the cookie-cutter-boring-and-fake Nashville industry side of things, he wouldn’t still be playing fairs and $10-ticket shows. I’m not complaining; I hope to catch a show soon. But if his career so far has proven anything, it’s that Sturgill Simpson wants very much for everyone to be able to connect with his writing and performing. He’s traveling a lot, making sure that fans can see him in venues where his music can really be heard and appreciated. People like Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn and more have done the same over their careers, keeping themselves connected to the fans who will come hear them whether commercial “country” *cough* radio plays them or not. PASS.
3) This last point is, I think, the most relevant. Sturgill Simpson is, frankly, a person who doesn’t seem to care one bit whether his records sound like Waylon, Dylan, or whoever, because he’s creating, producing and performing these things exactly the way he wants them done. There’s no “sweetening” of the sounds, there’s no concessions to what is “hip” on commercial radio. That’s why people think he evokes Waylon or Kristofferson; it’s because there’s not a hint of a desire to shape his music to the now-popular flavor-of-the-month tastes in production, instrumentation, etc. Being identifiable as YOURSELF, not as you-filtered-through-the-latest-fads. PASS.
Someone said that if Sturgill Simpson left the music business for good right now and went back to the railroad, he would have left a fine musical legacy that would last for years to come. I couldn’t agree more. The man is a gift to American music. I’ve not heard someone sound so totally connected to his instrument, voice and material in a very, very long time.
God bless country music, America’s music, and God bless America.
May 14, 2014 @ 10:13 am
this guy gets it… Good work BIG RIG
May 14, 2014 @ 11:18 am
File this under evidence that Sturgill Simpson is making the world a better place:
Driving through our fair city on an absolutely gorgeous day, windows down, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music turned way up. Stuck in traffic at a red light, A Little Light begins to play. A previously unnoticed man, likely homeless, bolts upright from his slouch against a street sign and begins walking toward the lowered passenger window. Cranes his neck towards the music and begins clapping and stomping in time.
Nevermind that the initial reaction was to not want to deal with the situation or my feelings about socioeconomic inequality and mental healthcare, I begin to clap in time along with him and a huge smile breaks out on both our faces.
Do mind that the other drivers and pedestrians were all in confused awe of the scene until they began smiling too.
Song ends, a handshake, and a green light.
Thanks to the universe for that experience. Church.
May 14, 2014 @ 6:34 pm
Did you give the panhandler money?
May 14, 2014 @ 7:09 pm
he wasn’t in the act of panhandling when I stopped at the light so $$ didn’t occur to me until after I shook hands with him, and by that time the light went green. I don’t generally contribute in those situations, those dudes make out pretty good where I live without my help.
I think the cosmic point of that whole scene was that good music is a good thing, and that the distance between people isn’t as great as our social constructs might lead us to believe. Any way, he received something he liked and wasn’t expecting!!
May 14, 2014 @ 12:16 pm
The way that i see it is Shelton Williams “Straight to Hell” was my generations Honkey Tonk Heroes, and I honestly believe this album will become our “Redheaded Stranger”. Keep doing what your doing Sturgill, and go back to your roots Shelton
May 14, 2014 @ 6:50 pm
The average country music listener is lazy and wants to be told what to listen to. If that 20-year-old heard Sturgill, I think he’d love it! He just can’t find it.
Your other point about Chesnutt, Travis (add Wynonna, Garth, McBride) … they got weird chasing pop fandom when country wasn’t enough. I can point to a jumping the shark moment for most country artists when they alienated me as a country music fan. Garth .. Ropin’ the Wind, Wynonna … Break up of the Judd’s, Randy Travis … Old 8×10, Mark Chesnutt.. covering Aerosmith,. I feel those artists left country before radio left them.
May 14, 2014 @ 6:54 pm
This comment was for Clint
May 15, 2014 @ 10:28 am
“The average country music listener is lazy and wants to be told what to listen to. If that 20-year-old heard Sturgill, I think he”™d love it! He just can”™t find it.”
Most natural Country Music fans I’ve known are hardworking people who have mostly turned off the radio. Those lazy 20 year old fans are not Country Music fans. If they ever heard any, they’d mock it most likely.
Those people I named did not abandon Country. I agree that Mark Chesnutt covering Aerosmith was silly, but the rest of that album was Country, and the album after that he even covered Conway and Gene Watson; he hasn’t been on the radio since. So he dove headlong into hard Country and has released album after album of some of the best music of his career. But unless someone is a loyal fan of his, they wouldn’t know that. Randy Travis never abandoned Country; Country abandoned him, so he started singing gospel.
May 15, 2014 @ 5:13 pm
I’m 21 years old and I listen to Sturgill, Isbell and the Turnpike Troubadours. So please do not make broad generalizations of my age group. I know others my age who also listen to pure country music and not the garbage on the radio. I also don’t take kindly to being called “lazy.”
May 16, 2014 @ 9:29 am
Yeah and I don’t take kindly to having to work with clock milking, lolligagging 20 somethings who think the world owes them something before they’ve even hit a lick. It’s not a generalization; it’s reality based on my life’s experiences. There’s exceptions to almost everything though. If you and your buddies don’t fall in with the bunch I’m referring to, then obviously it doesn’t apply to you. Dry your tears Josh.
May 16, 2014 @ 12:19 pm
I respect your musical opinions and want to give you an opportunity and a forum to share them, but I don’t appreciate your very harsh, judgmental criticism and blanket statements of individuals. And yes, I know that means a lot coming from me. I’m not sure why there has been so much of this lately, and in the comments section of this article specifically, but I am putting a stamp on it and comments are going to start getting deleted, and severely edited, and certain comments sent to moderation before their posted until people can show a little bit more respect to each other. These comment sections are for the constructive exchange of ideas, not for idealistic judgement of people in society just because they are different from us. You can be hard, but you also have to be fair.
May 17, 2014 @ 5:56 am
My dearest Trigger,
I don’t need a place to share my opinions, but it certainly relieves a little stress to come on here and read your Pop-Country bashing articles. And although we disagree radically on what should be allowed to be called Country, I’m sure we have more in common than not, and I appreciate what you’re trying to do.
I am perfectly willing to comply with your comment guidelines, but it would help if you were more specific. Your scolding was kind of vague. I don’t recall judgmentally criticizing any individual. All I’ve done is give my honest, sincere assesment of what is going on in Country Music. It just so happens that I believe music is a manifestation of our society. They go hand in hand.
You see Trigger, I am a sad, bitter middle-aged man who gets up everyday and wonders what planet I’m on. The world I grew up in doesn’t exist anymore; Country music is a remnant of that world, and it’s almost gone too. Country music used to be the voice of a specific culture; now it’s just the voice of a bunch of charlatans in Nashville. The degradation of Country music is a direct result of the degredation of our society, and I can see it everywhere ago. So when I comment on something, that’s where I’m coming from.
I guess brutal honesty offends people more than a lie, which is another thing that’s really changed. Anyways, I’ll do my best to comply.
May 14, 2014 @ 8:33 pm
Every so often somebody comes along and turns my music world upside down. When I was young it was the first time I saw a recording of SRV on Austin city limits. I saw him and was hooked. Then later in high school and college it was more the alternative rock sound. Bands like Creed ( yes I admit it I liked them and I still think My Own Prison is a great album ), 3 Doors Down, Seether, Shinedown ( mainly because I loved Brent Smiths voice ) and even some harder stuff like Metallica, Godsmack and Black Label Society ( still love Zakk Wylde to this day ). Then several yrs ago I got back into country and hated what was on the radio. Everything sounded the same and got old very quickly. Then I found out about the Texas/ red dirt artists like Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, Turnpike, reckless Kelly, Boland etc and blew me away musically once again. Then about 6-8 months ago I stumbled onto this site and kept seeing the names Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson so naturally I checked them out too. They have blown me away. It’s a damn shame they are not the face of country music. I’ve been listening to metamodern since it downloaded Monday night from the pre-order and haven’t slowed up. Easily one of the best albums I’ve ever heard from any genre I’ve listened to. Keep it up Sturg. U too Trigger!
May 15, 2014 @ 7:55 am
God, I miss SRV.
May 15, 2014 @ 8:52 am
I think the album is pretty darn good! I really like “It Ain’t All Flowers”. That semi-yodel holler thing really brings it to a full boil. I really hope he doesn’t quit playing. There aren’t many artists I look forward to hearing, but he is definitely one of them alongside Jason Isbell and DBT and Jamey Johnson. Sturgill just has sooooo much potential.
May 15, 2014 @ 11:26 am
Sturgill sound a lot like Sturgill. This album is strong work and stands all by itself. Doesn’t need to be compared to any past artists.
Trigger thanks for this great web site. Since I discovered it about a year and a half ago I have been introduced to many great artists I would have never known about. Please keep us the great work, it is appreciated!
May 15, 2014 @ 8:50 pm
Five or ten seconds into the first song I heard from this fella I knew something special was coming at me. Every song I have heard subsequently confirms my initial thought. I hope Sturgill breaks wide but if he doesn’t I would not be surprised. What passes for Country Music these days is mighty strong…smelling.
May 16, 2014 @ 8:23 am
I love how hard it is to criticize this album. People are really picking it apart to find its shortcomings, and that is a good sign. Usually, releases will have glaring issues in one part or another, but this one is particularly good.
If slight hissing or clipping when he sings a high note, or the similarities some draw between Sturgill and Waylon are the worst things about this production, I’d say the album is doing damn well.
May 16, 2014 @ 1:16 pm
How dare this man make an entire album without a mention of me or my business partner, Lipgloss!!??!! Has this man not received the memo that all country music albums are required to have at least one mention of us? Heck, Tim McGraw mentions us at least five times every album!
I am going to teach this man a lesson. I just spoke with Scott Borschetta and he has already mobilized the legal team! This Sturgill Simpson guy is going down!! Mark my words!!!
May 16, 2014 @ 1:19 pm
I agree, Lipstick. This man has committed a breach of contract. He has to know that I have an exclusive contract with Country Music that states specifically that I must be mentioned at least four times on every country CD. Heck, Florida Georgia Line mentions me every single song. And speaking of which, screw all these traditionalists who listen to this. You all probably drive Fords! Mr. Simpson, you have messed with the wrong bull. Prepare to get the pants sued off of you!!!
May 16, 2014 @ 1:23 pm
You hating traditionalist fools!!! You will all…..each and every single one of you….learn to follow my New Order of Country!!! You will ALL learn to appreciate Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Brantley Gilbert, and my legion of pop country singers!!! You stand no chance against pop country nation!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!!!!!!
May 17, 2014 @ 3:08 pm
I’m not trying to rain on the love fest here, but as someone whose primary appreciation of art is in the traditional, neo-traditional country & honky tonk genres, this album was disappointing. It’s still better than most anything else in mainstream “country” right now, but not nearly as country as High Top Mountain. After reading all of the comments, I suppose I was expecting an album full of songs as great as Water in a Well.
There’s some decent songs on here, and I don’t mind branching out a little, but he really lost me with the psychedelic noise at the end of It Ain’t All Flowers. It reminded me of the 2nd disc of Hank III’s “Straight to Hell” and had the same off-putting effect on me. I like a lot of what both of these guys do, but the weirdness can sometimes be a big turnoff to traditionalists. I guess I have no one to blame but myself, because the album titles of both should have been a warning.
May 17, 2014 @ 4:59 pm
it is a CONCEPT album!!!!
May 17, 2014 @ 11:34 pm
Thanks again Trigg for introducing all of us to Sturgill’s music. I got the early download but now I need to know how to get the hidden track “Pan Bowl”? Any suggetions?
Honest Charlie's Productions
May 19, 2014 @ 11:35 am
I ordered in the cd/t-shirt/vinyl package and so far I have not had a chance to hear it on vinyl which I cannot until I have the chance to do so. Admittedly when I heard Sturgill saying this was a bit of a concept album and then hearing Turtles I had a few reservations but I have been following his music for a number of years now and wanted to keep supporting him. I even had a couple of friends of mine not purchase because they thought things were going in another direction. After I shot them a couple of MP3’s they went and purchased the album. One improvement on this album is his words seem to be more clear. My wife who loves his music as well has said he is sometimes hard to understand. I keep hearing he sounds like Waylon but I don’t really hear that all too much. I can’t really pinpoint any one artist he does sound like. Listen to Voices, he actually reminds me of Randy Travis but then when you switch to another song he doesn’t at all. He sounds like Sturgill Simpson and he sounds awesome.. I have not enjoyed an album this much since the .357 String Band’s Ghost Town release.. Thanks Sturgill!
May 30, 2014 @ 5:19 pm
Just saw Rolling Stone’s review of this album.
Is this a catch-phrase or a review? Is this magazine still relevant? I yearn for the days of full page reviews. Rolling Stones’s two-plus page review of the Replacement’s Pleased to Meet Me stands as a watershed moment…
This magazine had become nothing but a mainstream fanzine. This album will be one that will be remembered as a landmark release….
— like Nirvana’s Nevermind was—but they gave that one three stars too…..
May 30, 2014 @ 5:39 pm
Was really disappointed in how Rolling Stone reviewed this album almost in passing here weeks after the release, with just a brief paragraph. I honestly think it would have almost been better if they didn’t review it at all, or at least passed the task off to someone who could have put more love into it. It is their review with their opinions, so I’m not going to argue with them, but the sense of a lack of effort is what is disappointing.
Having said that, Sturgill has received so many in-depth write ups, it is hard to complain that the press corps aren’t doing their job with him. He’s a virtual media darling right now, which is another reason it seems weird Rolling Stone would be so brief with him. And not to make excuses for them, but they are mere hours at this point from launching their new big country music website, so maybe their focus is on other things. It would have been cool if they had waited, and done a big write up for that. But for all we know, maybe they’re planning one. This is more the speed of the reviews you see in the back of mags that try to cover every release in a utilitarian mode.
November 20, 2014 @ 10:19 pm
I keep going back to this album over and over. It gets better every time I listen to it.
On another note, am I the only one hearing echoes of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” in “It Ain’t All Flowers”? The lead guitar tone in “Flowers” never fails to give me chills. Been trying to recreate it and I can’t come close with a full pedalboard.
Cool Lester Smooth
June 16, 2015 @ 6:14 pm
Finally listening to the this album for the first time (I know, I know) and holy shit…this blows High Top Mountain out of the water. It just feels so much less mannered, and more like a direct line from Simpson’s soul to my ears.
And, in case it wasn’t clear, I honestly might prefer this to Southeastern, as modern country records go.
Holy fucking shit, this album.