There’s been a lot of flux in the independent country world over the last few days. The first bombshell was that bass player, de-facto manager, and right hand man of Whitey Morgan for years, Jeremy Mackinder was leaving Whitey’s band The 78’s.
Now Sturgill Simpson, the dynamic force behind the band Sunday Valley, who is on the tail end of completing what Sturgill hopes to be his breakthrough album, has decided to go with a name change to “Sturgill Simpson & The High Top Mountain Boys” out of respect to the side players who are no longer with the band. From Sunday Valley’s Facebook Page:
Welp kids,…Lord knows it’s been a long road with a great many tears of joy and sadness and some very hard lessons learned but I know I speak for all four original members of Sunday Valley when I say we gave it everything we had and then some. Out of respect and honor for Billy, Gerald, & Eddie and the sacrifices we all have made for this thing over the years, I could never under any circumstances feel good about continuing my musical journey under the Sunday Valley name.
There are no words I can think of that would possibly express our love and appreciation for you all and your support over the last 8 years…it means more than you could ever know. New band, new sound, new album coming very soon…as they say, the next chapter is always better, that’s why we turn the page.
“To the wind and on to heaven…”
I would not characterize this as a breakup. The side men of Sunday Valley have been in a state of flux over the last few years. It is always difficult to run under a band name instead of the individual’s name when a band is really one person’s musical vision instead of a collaboration between a group of people like in the traditional band setup. This new name allows the spotlight to be on Sturgill Simpson where it belongs, while also preserving the legacy of the side players that have made up “Sunday Valley” over the years.
The only potential drama here is that all the burgeoning momentum that was building behind the name “Sunday Valley” has to now traverse the sometimes shaky ground of a name change. At the same time, it is better to make the change now instead of after the new album comes out and even more momentum builds behind a doomed band name.
“I am attempting to make what I believe to be the purest, most uncompromising Hard Country album anyone has heard in 30 years,” Sturgill tells Saving Country Music, “And it will be an effort to revitalize the neo-traditional movement spearheaded by two of my idols and fellow Kentuckians (Skaggs & Whitley) back in the 80’s. This record is coming straight from my heart and it is both an effort to pay homage to my family and the music they raised me on as well as my own attempt to return in my heart to a home that no longer exists.”
“High Top Mountain is located near the Kentucky River on Stray Branch in Breathitt County, Kentucky and is home to High Top Cemetery, the final resting place of many past generations of my family.”
Sunday Valley may be gone, but the constant is still Sturgill’s singular talent as a songwriter, performer, and guitar player, and as long as that remains in place, the music will sound great under any name.