You Have Every Right to Be Disappointed If Sturgill Simpson Chose Not to Make a Country Record
I hate doing this. I always hate turning the pen against another writer or periodical, and a good one at that. But even more, I hate to watch the truth get trampled.
For the second time in four months, a writer for the Dallas Observer has taken a completely ridiculous and incorrect premise, hindered by a perspective on country music that is very much from the outside looking in, and built it into an irresponsible think piece that shreds the truth and frames anyone who would have the audacity to care about country music as a feckless, misguided moron.
The first instance occurred in November when writer Kelly Dearmore implied that Merle Haggard didn’t think that country music needed to be saved in a story titled “Country Music Isn’t In Need of a Savior.” What was Dearmore’s evidence that Merle didn’t think country music needed to be saved? Absolutely positively nothing. It just looked real good in print. Instead, there is mounds of evidence and many quotes stating the contrary. But the Dallas Observer went forward anyway, and put words in Haggard’s mouth.
Now another Dallas Observer writer is going back to rewrite history to attempt to accomplish a similar aim.
On Wednesday (3-9), the alternative newsweekly published a piece by writer Amy McCarthy called “Sturgill Simpson Hasn’t Betrayed Country Music Because He Never Was a Country Artist.” That seemed like a bold and misguided opinion to take, especially as the title of an article. So curious, I took a gander, and what does the first sentence of the article state matter of factly?
“Sturgill Simpson never said he was a country artist.”
Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.
How such irresponsible and short-sighted assertions actually made it into print for mass consumption is as dumbfounding as it is scary. Let’s go back and take a few simple, cursory glances at some of the things Sturgill Simpson has said over the years that slam dunk repudiate this insulting notion that Sturgill Simpson “never” considered himself a country artist.
“I am attempting to make what I believe to be the purest, most uncompromising Hard Country album anyone has heard in 30 years,” Sturgill Simpson told Saving Country Music in April of 2012, “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.”
Hmmm. Not only does it sound like Sturgill Simpson considered himself country, he called his music “Hard Country” (capitalized) and “uncompromising,” and was looking to “revitalize the neo-traditional movement.” I don’t know how much more matter of fact Sturgill could have been about where his mindset was at that time.
That above quote was made when Sturgill was transitioning from his band Sunday Valley to his solo career. And what was Sturgill’s mindset back in the Sunday Valley days?
“I think modern country especially, everything you hear on the radio, they spend three verses trying to tell you how country they are,” Sturgill said in the EPK for the Sunday Valley record. “Country music’s just about hope, redemption, and sorrow, and pain, and loss, and everything at the same time.”
So what of those quotes, or anything else that Sturgill has said ever gives you any indication he “never” considered himself country?
Even the article in GQ that the Dallas Observer links to that apparently proves Sturgill has “long insisted” he isn’t a country artist, Sturgill actually says, “Then, when I moved to Nashville, I put out a very traditional country record because that’s just what you do. I had a bunch of very traditional country songs. Next thing you know, you’re a country singer. I just don’t see myself as a songwriter or a country singer or any of those things anymore.”
So the next question is, why is Amy McCarthy and the Dallas Observer looking to rewrite history?
I’ll tell you why. Because they want everyone to know that Sturgill Simpson no longer belongs to us as country music fans, he now belongs to them. And their so arrogant and celebratory that Sturgill has apparently repudiated his country-ness, they’re even willing to go back and rewrite history to say he never really wanted anything to do with country music in the first place. He was one of them the whole damn time. Why can’t Sturgill Simpson be for all? I thought that was the whole aim of the non genre music world?
This is a case of hipsterism. These are Sturgill Simpson fans who don’t want to be troubled by the idea that Donald Trump voters in plaid shirts are in a Sturgill audience as they trip balls on their designer drugs under the misguided notion Sturgill Simpson is drug music due to one damn song. They’re laughing at you not just because you care about country music, but because you care about anything; because you care about something bigger than yourself. They think you’re an idiot because you’re unwilling to follow Sturgill on his “evolutionary” journey as a closed-minded country music jerk.
When Sturgill’s new song “Brace For Impact” was premiered last week, there was a palpable mood among some listeners that they needed to be out in front of the criticism that Sturgill’s new music wasn’t country. For every concerned fan saying they wished Simpson would make another country record, there were three complaining why people couldn’t just support Sturgill regardless of what genre he chose. It was clear that the response to the criticism of Sturgill leaving country was outpacing any actual criticism of Sturgill’s direction. This Dallas Observer piece is just the latest evidence of this. In truth, most Sturgill Simpson fans were open-minded to his new direction. It’s more assumption than reality that country music fans won’t get into his new music.
As the proprietor of a website called Saving Country Music, and someone who has followed Sturgill Simpson longer than most, and reported on his career more than anyone, I personally want Sturgill Simpson to make whatever music he feels in his heart, whatever the genre. Sturgill made his ultra country debut High Top Mountain for his grandfather, and he made A Sailor’s Guide To Earth for his son. And so how can you fault the man for where he has chosen to take his music? If you are a fan of Sturgill Simpson, you should be more than willing to follow him on his journey, and trust him on where he’s leading you, at least until you’ve given him ample leeway, and then you can make an informed, conscious decision to turn back if you choose. We still haven’t even heard his new album yet, so I’m not even sure why we’re having these discussions. It’s all so presumptive.
But with all that said, don’t let anyone, ANYONE, make you feel guilty for being sad or disappointed that Sturgill Simpson did not make another true blue country record. It is your right as a country music fan to want someone you poured your heart into as a fan to not let you down. I would love for Sturgill Simpson to make another country record, and that doesn’t make me either selfish, misguided, or closed-minded to the musical expressions outside of country. It just means I’m a fan of country music.
Screw us if at one point we believed that Sturgill Simpson might be one of the solutions to what has happened to country music. After all, he pretty much said himself he wanted to be. Opinions change, and that’s totally fine and understandable. But if you go back to attempt to re-write history, especially if the aim is to lampoon long-standing country-oriented Sturgill Simpson fans, then you’re walkin’ on the “fightin’ side of me.” And those are words that actually did come out of Merle Haggard’s mouth, Dallas Observer.
March 10, 2016 @ 10:18 am
Consider me disappointed and closed minded. I’ll buy the new record for the same reason I buy records by bands like Lecero & the Gaslight Anthem. Because I don’t listen to strictly country music. But I’m not gonna feel bad for wishing Sturgill would stay a little closer to the path he has been traveling for the last few years. Not because I’m selfish, but because country music needs Sturgill more than Sturgill needs country music.
March 10, 2016 @ 12:34 pm
I agree. I’m not too upset that Sturgill is cutting a non-country record, however finding pure present-day country songs seems so far and few between. I will listen to it but I’m a country fan overall so I’ll still be listening and supporting country music.
March 13, 2016 @ 6:09 pm
Kross, I absolutely agree. Your last statement hit the nail right on the head. It’s not that he could save the genre or anything, but it’s more so about one of Trigger’s articles a long time ago about your artist having to starve and be down in the gutter to have soul. While I do not want Sturgill to have to do that at all, to me, he was my outlaw country. He’s not the only artist cutting damn good country albums, but for me, hearing about him when I did and listening to his first album, there was a solid connection. And I feel that connection being severed with this new album. I don’t dislike it one bit, but it’s not the music that I wish Sturgill would make. However, Sturgill is an artist and I believe that he has the integrity to do whatever he wants to do and I wish him luck with this album.
March 10, 2016 @ 10:18 am
For those that have this fetish of calling Sturgill a savior to Country Music, I’m just gonna flat out be as nice as I can about this: I really don’t think one person can actually save this genre, if anything, I think in order for balance to be found in Country Music again, it’s actually gonna take a team effort not only from current singers either featured on this blog or from outside sources.
Combine that with us voting with our money because it’s true when they say money talks and if Chris Stapleton’s recent success is an indication, I think the pot is beginning to boil.
Bottom line: Sturgill ain’t the one that’s gonna save this genre, neither Jason Isbell or Chris Stapleton, it’s gonna take a team effort from all of us.
March 10, 2016 @ 12:38 pm
Agree, 1 person cannot save this genre, or even preserve it. It’s a group effort.
March 10, 2016 @ 4:17 pm
I’ll also tip my hat to some of the under-the-radar traditionalists like Shane Owens from Alabama, who has new music, and Anita Stapleton Anderson, who has been singing mostly 50s-80s classic country and gospel in Nashville for over two decades. I’m a little surprised the timing couldn’t be worked out for Sturgill Simpson to record a country song for Cobb’s album. It seems to me that would have been a way to keep his country fans fully on board, even if his new album is more rock.
March 10, 2016 @ 4:32 pm
I’m also curious as to why he won’t be on the record. I’m wondering if he has said anything about it anywhere.
March 10, 2016 @ 6:30 pm
According to this article, it was just a timing issue:
“Why wasn”™t Sturgill Simpson on the album?”
Cobb: “I would have loved for him to have been on it, and I asked to be on it. I think he would have been perfect for the album, but he couldn”™t do it. It was a management decision””he had to get an album out. He and I are like brothers, too. I mean, such an important part of my Southern family.”
March 16, 2016 @ 9:30 pm
Thanks! I finally did read the article. Appreciate it!
March 10, 2016 @ 10:25 am
Sturgill said before the last album that he might not do a country album next. What I’ve heard on this album is honestly what I expected. Especially after hearing that HBO song and after seeing him live a couple of time.
It’s going to be awesome regardless. And its going to at least be country in the sense that he can’t get away from what his voice sounds like
March 10, 2016 @ 10:29 am
I agree with 95% of this, but I do worry that your paragraph about plaid shirts and designer drugs is descending a bit into an “us vs. them” mentality that encourages these kind of bs distinctions in the first place. As someone who listens to virtually every genre of music, I can say that Sturgill appeals to me both because of his traditional country background and because of his interest in pushing that definition on his last record – not because I saw him as kicking dirt in the eye of “backwards country fans” – actually the opposite, that he knew country fans could take more than what they were being fed.
If you look at the permalink, it looks like the original title was the still-wrong but less incendiary “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth proves he was never just a country artist,” which is a condescending “just” but at least acknowledges that he was a country artist.
I think the most important distinction here, though, is the way you put in the headline: “if sturgill simpson chose not to make a country record.” This record might end up not being country, but that won’t prevent Sturgill from being a country artist. As he said, once he opens his mouth it’s country, and I don’t think this (kind of mediocre) song disproves that theory, it just has a little electric guitar in there.
March 10, 2016 @ 10:54 am
What the Dallas Observer did was practice demographic shaming, and so I fought fire with fire. In the end I think most Sturgill Simpson fans just foucs on the music. But a few on the periphery love to people watch, and use it to validate their slanted opinions about others. I wish folks knew the challenge it was just to steady my hands to write a response to that piece, and keep it mostly free of vulgarity. I HATE doing these articles. But what the hell? So a major alternative newsweekly is just going to try and rewrite the history of country music? Twice? My hand is forced.
I also observed that the permalink was different, and this is the SAME thing that happened with the Kelley Dearmore piece on Merle Haggard. In fact Dearmore told me later that he didn’t write the headline. That means someone at the Dallas Observer is writing these headlines, and purposely looking to stir the pot. That’s why I tried to focus most of my venom at the Dallas Observer itself, and not just the writer, Amy McCarthy. Because who knows what some agenda-laden editor interjected into this piece. The title and the first line were intended to suck you in, and they were complete and utter fabrications. This article was irresponsible.
March 10, 2016 @ 11:45 am
I guess I still feel the fire should be directed at the paper and general rock-centric press, not the “hipster” that gets into Sturgill’s last record but doesn’t support the same presidential candidate. Most of the people I know who don’t listen to country but liked that record liked it because it was a type of country they don’t usually hear, not because it “wasn’t country” or whatever.
That said, this is ultimately a side point, and again I agree with just about everything you said in your response. It’s a lazy article with an unforgivably stupid headline on top of it.
March 10, 2016 @ 3:32 pm
I totally agree Matt. I think the paper is at fault. Perhaps I could have worded the “hipster” part to make it more obviously tongue-in-cheek, but that sort of stereotypical alternative newsweekly-reading snarky judgemental irony-laden urban elitist is who they were looking to target with that story.
There’s a specific narrative running through Sturgill Simpson’s career and the City of Dallas. A couple of year ago right when he was blowing up, he played a double show at a place called “Club Dada” that the Observer was dubbing as one of the biggest shows in Dallas in possibly decades. There’s a sports station called The Ticket in town, and a show called The Hardline that’s been hard and heavy behind Sturgill for a while. I think a lot of folks have been showing up to Sturgill shows in Dallas for a while, and are offended by the country fans that come to them. I think these people believe that the country community doesn’t “get” Sturgill Simpson like they do, and unfairly assign him a “country savior” tag. Some of that might even be true, but that doesn’t give you carte blanche to lie about where Sturgill Simpson came from.
March 10, 2016 @ 7:15 pm
I think we can all agree you’d have to be high on a significant amount of synthetic drugs to listen to High Top Mountain and think it’s anything but a country record.
March 19, 2016 @ 12:23 pm
As a music writer I’ve endured editors slapping misleading headlines on stories I’ve written. As an arts editor, I tried to avoid doing it myself. But at the same time, you want to write a headline that is going to grab readers, maybe even stir them up That seems like exactly what the Dallas Observer editor was doing — and succeeding at, given your reaction. I don’t think there’s any anti-country music or anti-country fan agenda at work here. Just an attempt to get people reading and talking. Maybe not journalism at its finest, but no sin, especially in these desperate time for print publications.
March 19, 2016 @ 11:47 pm
The headline is one thing. The first sentence of the article is a flat out lie. Not an interpretation. Not an opinion. It’s a fabrication.
March 10, 2016 @ 12:34 pm
Normally editors write headlines. It’s not a conspiracy. But I do think that this editor got your goat.
March 10, 2016 @ 3:35 pm
I don’t think it’s a conspiracy either, but it’s happened now twice. I do think it’s fair to point out so the ire isn’t just on the writer. There’s ample evidence that in both cases, the writer’s original headline was changed.
March 11, 2016 @ 1:19 pm
In terms of headlines I don’t know if this is the same situation but famed movie critic Roger Ebert didn’t write the headlines for his reviews. I forget why, but I think the editor dd it. And sometimes that landed in hot water with movie buffs. So I think it may be more common than we think. And frankly if a major news outlet is rewriting history, and supposedly they have done some journalistic research, just think what the average Sam Hunt fan is doing in their minds with zero research.
By the by I just saw in my sidebar April 14th is the release date for the album.
March 10, 2016 @ 11:10 am
I really wish we didn’t have to wait til mid summer to at least hear the album
March 10, 2016 @ 12:00 pm
We don’t, it releases in April…
March 10, 2016 @ 12:51 pm
My bad the last time I had checked into I heard June or July, so thank you
March 10, 2016 @ 11:31 am
The fans who brought about his fame deserve at least something of a country record. He may not be “our bitch” as somebody so eloquently pointed out in the comments of one of the initial new Sturgill album articles, but we do deserve to have some expectations.
March 10, 2016 @ 2:09 pm
Sturgill has been pretty open about his musical influences (including being a big fan of EDM) and that each album may be different.
March 10, 2016 @ 4:50 pm
While a good chunk of young people might go to Top 40 pop I gotta confess that as Country as I am, I like Smooth Jazz with people like Paul Hardcastle and Maxine Hardcastle being my heavyweights.
March 11, 2016 @ 1:24 pm
Meh I’m mixed on this as an artists myself I want to do what is in my soul not what the public in crying for. But I also want to pay the bills. I mean suppose the guy just doesn’t have a country album in him right now. I’d rather he release the good album (whatever genre) that is in him now that a mediocre or plain or modest country album to reward me the fan. I’d be bummed if wasn’t country though I can’t lie because he is so good at that kind of swing and groove.
March 10, 2016 @ 11:36 am
I won’t be disappointed if it is as good as it is teased to be. But it is disappointing. I feel he had another, better ‘pure’ country album in him. But hell–he ain’t dead yet. Right? So maybe next time!
March 10, 2016 @ 12:07 pm
I think one of the main reasons we as country fans as so defensive about this kind of thing is that it seems to happen all the time. Some new artist excites the country music world, and then changes their sound to appeal to other genres, like country isn’t good enough (evolution). It hardly ever goes the other way. (And if it does, it’s something ridiculous like Stephen Tyler singing about yum-yums) It just feels like we’re always being told our genre sucks. How often do you hear somebody say “I like everything but country”? So we’ve created our own little world that I’m proud to be apart of.
I must admit that hipsters latching onto Sturgill Simpson nearly ruined him for me (they ruin EVERYTHING). But I eventually came back because the music is so good. I definitely perfer High top mountain over metamodern, although both are great. HTM felt like more than just a music album to me, almost like a connection to the past. I’ll get sailors guide too, and probably like it. I would’ve perfered something a little more traditional, but it’s his career and he can choose his own way. I wouldn’t want somebody telling me what to record if I was an artist.
March 10, 2016 @ 12:51 pm
I agree with this. It is frustrating that so many great country artists veer off into something else. I support their growth, but at the same time it is aggravating that the artists that really want to stay pure are rare. Or maybe they aren’t rare, it’s just that our genre has become a sub-genre of its own genre, 🙁 and a sub-genre of red dirt too. I blame radio. We have no radio format for contemporary country. If we did I would be there in a heartbeat. I’m even down to Djs. Even a show that plays current country (not pop twang) would be great.
March 10, 2016 @ 1:08 pm
That’s part of why I love the Turnpike Troubadours – started out awesome and seem to only get even more country as they go. No matter Sturgill’s future, we’ll always have turnpike!
March 16, 2016 @ 9:26 pm
I need to listen to then more- I’ve only heard a few songs so far. Thanks for reminding me!
March 10, 2016 @ 12:20 pm
Hell, I’m (potentially-still haven’t heard the record) as disappointed as anyone. I love country Sturgill! At the end of the day though, it’s his career, not mine. Plus, I’ll take good music from Sturgill however I can get it, country or not. Like you’ve said many times here, I’m a fan of any good music first and foremost. I just prefer country.
March 10, 2016 @ 12:57 pm
the only thing i want from Sturgill is a reasonably priced physical copy of To The Wind And On To Heaven. other then that, totally looking forward to the new album.
March 10, 2016 @ 1:42 pm
i just hope he doesn’t stick with the “5 records and i’m done” or whatever he said along those lines. now that’d be some bullshit!
March 10, 2016 @ 1:57 pm
There are still people out there that assume that there are people who only ever listen to one genre of music?
March 10, 2016 @ 1:59 pm
I was disappointed when Joe Nichols , Easton Corbin , Eric Church and many others stopped making country records . I would be devastated if A J or George Strait stopped making country records . As a ” country ” singer I’m not sure Sturgil comes close to the aforementioned and . in fact , I’m not sure he was ever a traditional country singer / writer . So in that respect , I don’t really care what SS decides to do . I’m sure he’ll find a foloowing no matter what he releases .
March 10, 2016 @ 2:43 pm
Yeah, I would agree with this. Same with me on Eric Church- I love his older stuff but the newer stuff sounds like hard country rock, or rock. Again, nothing wrong with that, it’s just I want to hear some country. Agree about SS, as well.
March 10, 2016 @ 3:38 pm
“I”™m not sure he was ever a traditional country singer / writer”
I disagree. See above.
March 10, 2016 @ 2:21 pm
They clearly have an agenda, from their story on recent Isbell concert they go our of their way:
JASON ISBELL WAS SOMETHING MORE THAN A COUNTRY STAR AT SOUTH SIDE BALLROOM
Most fascinating, though, was just how genreless Isbell sounded last night. There were moments of country and blues and rock and roots and folk and Americana, each so significant that it”™s easy to see why the critics have such a hard time nailing Isbell down into a genre. As much as we might like for Isbell to be country music”™s next savior, last night it became overwhelmingly clear that he is much, much more than just a return to traditional country.
In fact, he might just be part of the reason that authentic, traditional country music may very well no longer be called “country music” in the coming years. The subject matter remains the same ”“ the trials and tribulations of the working man ”“ but the sound is entirely different. Influenced by his hometown of Muscle Shoals, Isbell is well on his way to redefining the way that we look at this uniquely American form of music.
Before Isbell took the stage, promising alt-country act Shovels & Rope delivered a killer opening set. On stage, they”™ve got an energy that rivals any other touring act in the world of music right now, and this impressive blend of blues, modern country and folk is just impossibly fun. With pulsating rhythms and brilliant lyrics and two uniquely distinctive voices, there”™s no doubt that we”™ll be hearing from this bright young band in the future. And if that”™s what the future of country music sounds like, things are going to get a whole lot better.
March 10, 2016 @ 2:57 pm
I love Jason Isbell but same, I don’t consider him country. He did take the heart and soul of country though and musically turn it into something different. Which is fine, I just still love traditional country.
March 10, 2016 @ 3:42 pm
The Dallas Observer and Amy McCarthy a very specific, niche slant perspective on country music.
“Most fascinating, though, was just how genreless Isbell sounded last night.”
That’s a ridiculous statement.
March 10, 2016 @ 4:59 pm
Right, that was my point, less about Isbell then about the need to categorize/decategorize and the agenda behind it, which I think was your point too…
March 10, 2016 @ 8:15 pm
People are using the music of Sturgill, Stapleton, and Isbell to push their own selfish aims about what they want to see happen in music. That can be with traditional country fans who want to anoint them as “country saviors,” or that can be journalists who want to push an agenda of how genre is irrelevant, which is at the heart of both the Sturgill and Isbell articles in the Dallas Observer. I have always held the position that this is unfair to these artists. If a country artist or artists rise up and help save country music, hell yeah. But let’s not lump that burden on their shoulders. Like Jake W said in this comments section, maybe Sturgill has already saved country music, and that’s why he’s moving on. That seems much more plausible than saying he never was country.
March 10, 2016 @ 2:24 pm
I’m a neo-traditionalist at heart, so Sturgill was never my first choice for country music “savior”. Neither are Jason or Chris. That said, I enjoy and respect what those guys do quite a lot.
I’ll admit I will be disappointed if there is no country on Sturgill’s new record, but I do like the first track quite a bit on its own merits. Sturgill is just a different kind of cat. On the one hand, you’ve got guys like Alan and George who release dozens of records that are all very similar. Then you have somebody like Sturgill who is gonna take a ton of risks. I can appreciate both approaches, but my preference is always going to be for stuff that hearkens back to country tradition. I appreciate Trigger for pointing out that this is not something I should feel the need to apologize for.
March 10, 2016 @ 2:58 pm
Agree, I am similar.
March 10, 2016 @ 3:04 pm
I’ll listen to whatever as long as the lyrics are good and the production is solid. I have always drifted a bit “left-of-center” when it comes my Country tastes as I enjoy Lucero as much as I enjoy Waylon.
March 10, 2016 @ 3:10 pm
I wonder if people were complaining about Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling (yes, they were)…he’s not a painter, he’s a sculptor! I am not stating that Sturgill is country music’s equivalent to Michelangelo, but what I am saying is that they are both artists and sometimes you sculpt marble and sometimes you paint a canvas.
Maybe Sturgill is country. Maybe he isn’t. He is an artist. He is a singer/songwriter. He grew up more country than most anyone throwing out their two-bit opinions here. He has played played bluegrass, and generally plays some bluegrass music during his shows. “Brace For Impact” is a good song. The production is great. Unless you all have ripped off the album from some scummy website, then I would doubt that you’ve heard the entire album. Everyone needs to sit back and relax and wait for the record to drop.
March 10, 2016 @ 4:24 pm
Like you said,he can make whatever album he wants to.And as a consumer,I will buy whatever I want and I probably won’t be buying this shit.
I too predict the fellers in the flannel and beards he cussed out at the Ryman you posted awhile back,will LOVE this album.
March 10, 2016 @ 5:30 pm
You’ve heard one fucking song off the new album. Calm your ass down.
March 10, 2016 @ 6:39 pm
My ass isn’t excited.It’s a very calm ass…And the first song released is usally a pretty good indication on how the rest of the album will be.
March 10, 2016 @ 7:05 pm
Enough about your ass, just wait for the other songs until you judge the album.
March 10, 2016 @ 4:35 pm
Sturgill is right to move away from country,,who wants to be associated with all the bad music..the long beard “outlaw” scene is just as bad as the bro-metro scene…example,whitey Morgan’s boring lyrics tempos are just as bad as the bros Nickelback rap songs…Sturgill would rather not be a part of any of it
March 10, 2016 @ 4:41 pm
Meh, country music doesn’t need him.
If you are part of a niche genre, you can pretty much shut out the rest of the world and not really care.
March 10, 2016 @ 5:25 pm
Whitey kicks ass brother.
March 11, 2016 @ 2:17 am
What a ridiculous thing to say.
March 13, 2016 @ 8:06 pm
Whitey Morgan is great!
He was named SCM Artist of the Year.
Collectively we here on SCM have disdain for artists whose career is controlled by the record company. Outlaw Country is not in that category.
Mo if you don’t like outlaw country….you can kiss my ass!!!
March 10, 2016 @ 4:39 pm
Much like cage the elephant and the black keys, once you become successful, you have to maintain that success. That can unfortunately mean that you have to move beyond a niche genre.
I’ve never really cared all that much about Sturgill, but this hipster-idiot sound may just mean that he has to eat too.
March 10, 2016 @ 5:18 pm
I think I see another perspective:
Sturgill already saved country music with just two albums, he didn’t do it alone. It was a joint effort with Jason isbell, Dave Cobb, and even Chris Stapleton. Personally, I think shooter jennings really started it all, not through quality not too take anything from shooter cause I love his stuf,f but through content and tone. I gotta say Whitey contributed as well with Sonic Ranch.
But at this point in the aftermath of Metamodern and traveller, just try to release mediocre material or jump on the sinking bro country ship and you’ll be forgotten in a millisecond. You have pop country stars trying to catch the train before it pulls away (Blake, Keith U.), a Dave Cobb southern compilation album coming soon that boasts all the current kings plus Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert; this album is sure to provide at least one pure country gem if not an entire album. Hellbound Glory is touring again as well!!!
Sturgill already did it and we were so busy talking about it we didn’t stop to just say “that’s it, it done”. Pop country may not die immediately, but it is definitely infected with a terminal disease that will at least cause a slow death. In the mean time my music catalog has finally been able to expand from just the country legends to these true and living country artists that have answered all of my prayers…
Praise Sturgill Simpson Country Music Savior!!!!!! You can do whatever you want now, your legacy is sealed.
Praise Jason Isbell, Country Music Savior!!!!! You didn’t even have to make country music to make country music your so good
Praise Shooter Jennings, Chris Stapleton, Whitey Morgan, Dave Cobb, Ryan Bingham (iguess), Hellbound Glory, John Carter Cash, Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, Hank III and all the others that relentlessly made real music with life, soul, grit, and the truth. Great article Trigger, one of the best I have read in a while.
March 10, 2016 @ 8:37 pm
Regarding Whitey Morgan, I wish that guy had greater visibility. I think Sonic Ranch deserves to be heard by all the people who loved records like Traveller and Metamodern, (and I hear people asking for suggestions along these lines quite a bit), but it remains somewhat underground.
I think one small problem is that a lot of people buy their music on Amazon, and I’ve noticed that for some reason Sonic Ranch is hard to find there. Whitey’s live album pops up in the row of “suggested albums” when you look at albums by Sturgill and other artists, but Sonic Ranch is nowhere to be seen, even when you specifically type “Whitey Morgan” in the search bar. Eventually I was able to find it, but even then, only as a digital download. It may not seem like a big deal, but I’d be willing to bet this is hurting his sales.
March 11, 2016 @ 7:18 am
I actually wanted to buy the album the other day, but then was bummed when I couldn’t get it on Amazon. Because I’m ordering other stuff from Amazon and want free shipping. I will probably bite the bullet and just order it from his website, but it will probably take me a while to get around to it.
March 11, 2016 @ 7:42 am
It’s on Amazon now.
March 11, 2016 @ 9:05 am
As an actual physical CD? I can’t find it. (yes, I know I’m outdated because I listen to actual CDs. The best part is I get a lot of them from the library. I’m basically a 33 year old octogenarian.)
March 11, 2016 @ 9:14 am
Here’s the link:
I’m a fellow Luddite, although a couple of decades older. I just got an iPhone this after having my flip phone for close to a decade. I have now made a few mp3 purchases which have been either been not available on CD or the CD was prohibitively expensive (e.g., Lydia Loveless’s Boy Crazy EP). I’ve said this many times, but I wish the hell I hapd bought the mp3 copy of Sunday Valley’s latest when I had the chance.
March 11, 2016 @ 9:22 am
I actually meant that response in regard to the Sonic Ranch album. But I will probably be buying the Sturgill CD also, and couldn’t find it on amazon either, lol, so thanks!
March 11, 2016 @ 9:50 am
Ah, OK. No problem. I couldn’t find the Sturgill album a fews days ago and then saw it yesterday. And yeah, I got the Whitey CD through his site and have since imported it into to my Amazon library so that I can hear it on my phone as well.
March 11, 2016 @ 2:23 pm
I also ended up having to buy the Whitey CD from his site when I purchased it, several months back.
March 13, 2016 @ 8:12 pm
Stephanie…..at least your not listening to cassettes. Did you find someone to go to Sturgill’s concert?
March 10, 2016 @ 5:28 pm
Sturgill makes real music. Country or not, I will buy every album he ever puts out, to include the 2004 Sunday Valley record if I can ever get my hands on it.
March 10, 2016 @ 6:13 pm
Sometimes I think Sturgill feels like he needs to distance himself from “country” and all its fans. Trigger what do you guys make of it that time in concert when he broke up a fight and said something about “I can’t wait till they realize I’m not like them- plaid shirts and beards”? Not an exact quote but anyway I thought he was talking about “good ol country boy” types? Or was he meaning hipster types? What do ya’ll think?
March 10, 2016 @ 7:10 pm
I will probably have something to say about that in the future. It’s a pretty in-depth topic and probably unfair to broach it here. But it’s a fair concern.
March 10, 2016 @ 7:15 pm
Fair enough. I’ll watch for the article. Thanks pal.
March 10, 2016 @ 7:34 pm
I have his 2 solo country albums. I like them a lot. Not as much as some but quite a bit. That said, I like his latest single a lot and I like the idea of an entire album in that direction. I think at some point musicians are gonna feel like they are beating a dead horse with a certain style of music. So long as he stays organic with his new stuff and doesn’t bring in too much programmed dance club shit, I am confident it will be really good. I am also confident that he will one day make another country album – that is if this album doesn’t wind up being one itself.
March 10, 2016 @ 7:54 pm
The opening sentence of the article “Sturgill Simpson never said he was a country artist,” is just flat out wrong.
As a somewhat longtime “follower” of Sturgill both in the press and on social media, I can tell you that he has referred to himself as country many times. Here’s just one example from a July 2014 interview with American Songwriter:
“The last year, every show all I heard from the fans is ”˜Man, I don”™t even really like country music, but I love what you guys are doing.”™ To me, nothing tells me that we”™re achieving our goal more than hearing somebody say that,” he says, calling in during a breather between moving into a new home in Nashville and leaving for a European tour. “There”™s a lot of people out there who hate country, especially younger people, because they”™ve never actually heard what I and many people call country.”
Also, his primary genre description on Facebook has always been “neotraditional country,” (although he just recently changed it.) He also used to bitch about not being invited to the CMA Awards or played on country radio. Heck, I remember back when he used to run his own Twitter account, he would poke fun at people who referred to his music as “Americana” as opposed to country, even once creating a hashtag called #What the Hell Is Americana. The only reason I remember this is because I found it hilarious. I mean, I like Americana, but I also don’t really know what the hell it is. But I digress.
Does all this minutia and squabbling over labels really matter in the long run? Perhaps not. As for me, I actually have no problem with Sturgill exploring new sonic terrain, but I’m not gonna pretend like I don’t wish he could retain within his sound some of those hard country and honky-tonk elements that made his first two LPs so viscerally exciting, for one more album at least. I think he and his band have (had?) a great sound going, and that it would have been possible to expand upon his previous sound without sacrificing the twang, as evidenced by his freewheeling, jam-heavy live shows. To be honest, I’m also not certain about the prospect of Sturgill being backed by a full horn section on this record, as I’m having a hard time imagining his vocals working as well in that context. Also, by going in that direction, he’s also potentially sacrificing some of what made him so unique in modern music, as there are a whole slew of other acts right now doing the whole neo-soul, Motown, Muscle Shoals thing. But obviously I haven’t heard the record yet, and I will dutifully buy it and listen in full before rendering any kind of judgement. I also support Sturgill’s artistic freedom to do whatever he wants, and will likely continue to buy his music regardless of style, as long as it’s good. (Which I expect it will be.)
As for the phenomenon of some music listeners (and journalists) trying to distance themselves and artist s they admire from the label “country,” I think it’s inevitable. The bias against “country music” in the culture at large is palpable; I’ve already seen numerous people make similar comments with regard to Chris Stapleton, along the lines of “This guy is really good. I hate to label this as ‘country music,’ I think of it as southern rock / blues / something else.” Despite the fact that Stapleton labels himself as country, is played on country radio, and wins country music awards. I’ve heard the same about various classic country artists including Johnny Cash, and even including Hank Williams, believe it or not. Go figure.
March 10, 2016 @ 8:07 pm
By the way, I love Sturgill’s creativity and all, but did anyone else find his new music video a little on the cheesy side? I don’t object to the strange symbolism or anything, and I understand that he’s probably not working with a big budget. It just seemed a little amateurish to me.
Truthfully, I find the album art for this new record to be kinda cheesy too, but everybody else seemed to love it, so I decided to bite my tongue. At least the cover isn’t a photoshopped picture of the artist standing on a truck bed or whatever, I guess.
November 1, 2016 @ 9:20 am
The whole album is suppose to be cheesy because it is an album made for his son yet being cheesy is almost innovative when Simpson does it because the emotions and love for his son is genuine. It is not some butterfly kisses bullishit type cheesy though.
March 10, 2016 @ 8:11 pm
Ugh. Trigger, did you just rant at hipsters? The concept of “hipster” might be the most overused bogeyman in all of music today.
I’m not going to defend one random column appearing on the Internet. There are a lot of opinions on the Internet, and this one certainly appears to be incorrect in stating that Simpson never was country (if it said he never “belonged” to country, I might argue for that). But it doesn’t stand for all of us hipsters (defined as, it appears, people who don’t think we have a “right” to believe he “let us down” if he didn’t make a country record).
No one group owns Simpson or his music. I’ll refrain from expressing disdain at the “plaid-wearing crowd” if you’ll leave us hipsters alone.
I happen to very much like “Brace for Impact” and will be happy if the rest of the album sounds like that. I also will be happy if the rest of the album sounds like Metamodern Sounds. Whatever.
March 10, 2016 @ 8:21 pm
This was a 19-paragraph dismantling of the idea that Sturgill Simpson was “never” a country artist. Selecting one paragraph out of 19 to call this a “rant at hipsters” is completely missing the point. I do think that an elitist, snobbish mentality is what is behind this Observer article, and it’s also who it was targeted to, but that one paragraph was offered to illustrate the absurdity of stereotyping another side.
“No one group owns Simpson or his music.”
I agree, or as I said in this very article,
“Why can”™t Sturgill Simpson be for all? I thought that was the whole aim of the non genre music world?”
March 10, 2016 @ 8:56 pm
Certainly agree with your point that Sturgill belongs to all, and I don’t like it when someone picks one small part of a column to complain about (in my newspaper days, had a guy call to rant about a column, only to admit after we’d talked a few minutes that he didn’t actually read all of it).
But I’m still uncomfortable with that graph, attributing the opinion of one writer on one regional site to hipsterism. I guess maybe I think I’m guilty of being a hipster, by your definition: I grew up listening to country, then checked out in about 2000 due to my outgrowing the mainstream (pop) version and its themes. I also found John Prine right about then. What made me love Sturgill was his melding the sound with content that was decidedly non-country. And I do sense he’s uncomfortable with “traditional” (pop) country fans, and I feel that. Yeah, I’m probably a hipster.
March 10, 2016 @ 10:02 pm
Others have taken exception to that paragraph. I probably could have either worded it better, or left it out. But I’m not going to hide it now because that feels disingenuous. I was really offended by that Dallas Observer article, just like I was offended by their article on Merle Haggard. I think it’s really shoddy work, and when I get emotional about stuff, my tongue can get in front of my head.
March 11, 2016 @ 6:39 am
One paragraph isn’t going to keep me from reading most of what you write. You’re doing the Lord’s work here.
In thinking about it, I think this hit a nerve with me because I think that at least part of the reason country radio has gotten so bad is because of an undercurrent of culture warfare. You seemed to intimate in another comment that you might address that sort of topic in regards to Sturgill…I’ll look forward to your take.
March 11, 2016 @ 3:46 am
What do you mean by “traditional (pop) country fan”? Are you talking about the typical pop-country fans of today, or fans of older mainstream country?
March 11, 2016 @ 6:39 am
I”™m talking about today”™s pop-country fans”¦I”™m a fan of the older mainstream country. Probably shouldn”™t have had the “traditional” in there.
March 10, 2016 @ 9:10 pm
I’ve seen Sturgill 6 times in the last 4-5 years. Each time the songs sounded different. Little nuances here and there. I think he gets bored pretty easily playing the same thing over and over again and having it sound the same. I like that he takes chances, I like that he switches it up. It seems like he has many influences and it reflects in the music he makes. Adding Little Joe was for sure a turning point where Sturgill could concentrate as being a singer/songwriter and little Joe can take care of the majority of the shredding and playing a more of a rockin/jammin/country style hybrid, is right in Joe’s wheelhouse. Adding keyboards was also big. As long as i like the music, i will still be buying Sturgill’s albums.
March 11, 2016 @ 6:26 am
I’m talking about today’s pop-country fans…I’m a fan of the older mainstream country. Probably shouldn’t have had the “traditional” in there.
March 11, 2016 @ 6:40 am
Sorry, ignore the above comment. Was meant for the one above yours. Technology!
March 11, 2016 @ 2:43 am
Four Flame Candle is still the best Sturgill song there is. If only he’d play it live.
March 11, 2016 @ 3:56 am
Thank you for writing this.
The real problem is that much of the music media considers country music as a fundamentally inferior genre. When they find a great country artist who contradicts this view, the first response is always denial.
Unfortunately, too many country singers possess an inferiority complex, desiring praise from mainstream critics and fans over support from the fans of their own genre. The moment that they get an inkling of validation from the music media, they change their sound away from their country roots in order to further pander to the critics. We have already seen this happen with Taylor Swift and the Zac Brown Band, and now the question is whether Sturgill goes down the same route…
March 11, 2016 @ 8:47 am
I kind of don’t blame them considering what Country music has come to represent, to most people who aren’t really that informed on the issue. I think the answer would be for the quality artists to double down and say, No, THIS IS Country music. And I think we’ve seen a bit of that lately. But no couple of artists are going to be able to shoulder that entirely. I like what I’ve heard of Sturgill’s new stuff. But I do wish he would proudly wear the Country Music mantle. But that’s just a wish.
March 11, 2016 @ 8:52 am
I’m just wishing that I could say I love Country music, and not feel like I should add, “no, not like YOU’RE thinking.”
March 13, 2016 @ 8:19 pm
I always clarify my comments when I tell someone I listen to country music. I have to throw out the disclaimer letting them know that the country music I am talking about is not the kind you hear on the radio.
March 11, 2016 @ 6:00 am
Right on, Trigger. There are singers and there are artists. Sturgill is an artist. He’s going to do whatever he’s led to do. I like Andrew Wyeth. If Andrew Wyeth at one point in his career felt he needed to become a cubist then I probably wouldn’t like his work much, because cubism doesn’t do it for me, and I’d probably be disappointed because I wouldn’t be getting any new inspiration from Andrew Wyeth. The stuff that Sturgill is putting out now bores me. It could be anybody. And imo I don’t think he’s as good at classic rock as he is at classic country. Maybe that’s because so few people are good at the latter these days, I don’t know. But I can be disappointed.
Also, for those who are hinting that he’s switching things around for money – doubtful. He’d make a lot more with another Metamodern Sounds. Nobody’s looking for anyne to save classic rock. But a whole lot of people are looking for someone to save country music. From a marketing perspective, country would be the way to the cash.
March 11, 2016 @ 10:02 am
I wouldn’t call this record “classic rock.” There are elements of that, but there are also elements of folk, classic power pop, jazz, soul, blues, and yes, country. It’s a record that is unapologetically him. I have a difficult time believing that anyone who loved Metamodern Sounds won’t at least enjoy this record. I personally think it’s another step up.
March 11, 2016 @ 12:11 pm
new song is growing on me.
It wasn’t what I wanted. But it is growing on me.
Been playing it on the Jukebox at the bar during dart nite. And it is real cool loud in the bar setting.. people were grooving to it.
My wife of all people (although she does have good taste and does like Strugil) really likes this song for some reason.
I guess to each his/her own.
I want the rest of the album to do more for me, I hope it does.
I really like Sturgill and wish him all the luck.
He is such an interesting cat
Still wonder if he is sticking to the 5 album plan..
March 11, 2016 @ 2:29 pm
Just wait ’till this record goes number one on the country charts. (Possibly.)
March 11, 2016 @ 6:59 pm
Most important is that we shouldn’t say anything about the album yet, especially based on one song. Would you wanna base Metamodern Sounds by “Turtles” alone? I don’t think so. I’m still really excited for the new album.
Plus, as we’ve said before here…Sturgill’s made it clear to all of us that we shouldn’t expect the same thing from him twice. He gets bored with things, and is always exploring. I compare him to Ryan Bingham in a way, because no two albums are alike.
March 12, 2016 @ 12:42 pm
I feel the need to post this–is it me or is Strugill’s drawl getting thicker and thicker over these past couple of years? I’m hardly able to understand a damn word in “Brace For Impact.”
Jay from NJ
March 13, 2016 @ 8:49 am
“This is a case of hipsterism. These are Sturgill Simpson fans who don”™t want to be troubled by the idea that Donald Trump voters in plaid shirts are in a Sturgill audience as they trip balls on their designer drugs under the misguided notion Sturgill Simpson is drug music due to one damn song. They”™re laughing at you not just because you care about country music, but because you care about anything; because you care about something bigger than yourself. They think you”™re an idiot because you”™re unwilling to follow Sturgill on his “evolutionary” journey as a closed-minded country music jerk.”
That is brilliant work Trig. Love ya.
March 14, 2016 @ 9:08 am
Sturgill could record an album of children’s songs and I’d still buy it and listen to it. Love his voice.
March 15, 2016 @ 11:13 am
Is Sturgill getting a new backing band or just a new bassist? What’s up with this?
March 15, 2016 @ 12:05 pm
I may have some more information on this soon.
March 15, 2016 @ 12:25 pm
Thanks I was hoping there was more info. Sturgills band has been amazing every time I have seen them. My concern is the music may be changing so much that there is now a need for new players.
But then again I know nothing about making music. Anyway Kevin has been super nice the couple of times I talked with him on tour. Miles too. Hope all is well with “the boys”.
March 15, 2016 @ 1:49 pm
I agree – Kevin was super nice after a show in Knoxville. It will be interesting to have some more information.
March 15, 2016 @ 7:15 pm
I read the whole article and everyone’s comments and everyone takes a bunch of different and interesting perspectives. I don’t think any of them are necessarily wrong or right. Here’s my take…I will probably continue to buy everything he puts out unless it is so colossally bad that it is un-listenable. I bought the vinyl and other package stuff for the new album the day it was announced. Everyone IS flipping out over an album that they haven’t heard 7/8’s of yet. One song I am excited to here off this is Oh Sarah, as I have the original from To the Wind and Onto Heaven (which wasn’t necessarily traditional country either), so I am intrigued as to how he re-records this. And I do wish he would have included Cut the Sails on this, as I think it would have been appropriate for the album based on it’s title. I met him in NYC last year after the Beacon show. I think the album title is appropriate, due to his past Naval service. He was very gracious and I think very surprised when I palmed a Navy Challenge Coin into his hand after the show. He was very candid and down to earth, so I don’t think he is changing his style for money, fame or critics. I think this is just his journey. I asked specifically if he was going to put some Sunday Valley stuff on the new album and he indicated that was going to happen. So….he didn’t BS me in that regard. But my point to everyone here is, wait for it to drop, listen to all of it and I think in the end you will find you listen to it from beginning to end just like his other two albums. But then again some won’t like it. C’est la vie. But I like what I hear so far from this album. And I agree with your view’s on the Dallas Observer. They must be bandwagon jumpers.
March 27, 2016 @ 1:25 pm
I will start by saying I was disappointed when I heard Sturgill’s new song on the radio in St. Paul, MN. His first two albums were pretty good (though I felt his second effort was rushed) and I was looking forward to hearing more of his brand of country music. But that is not to be. I’m a huge Bob Dylan fan (all time favorite artist) and have seen this happen several times in his career. True artists don’t stay in the same place. They change. Merle changed. Willie has had his hand in so many different genre’s over the years that it blows my mind. I don’t doubt that Sturgill just wanted to change his sound. Or evolve if you would. I used to read this website every day but I just got tired of reading all the boohooing about Florida Georgia Line and the other rotten musical acts who modern day country music fans identify with the genre. But I got fed up with all the rants and haven’t visited the sight for over a year. Got the notion today that I should check it out. Nothing’s changed. Too bad. People upset that Tim McGraw played a Waylon song before a concert. It was mockery. People upset that the new Hank movie allegedly sucks. It’s blasphemy. People upset that Sturgill isn’t releasing a country record. It’s betrayal. It’s music and only music. And music is as big a part of my life as any of the rest of the people reading or running this site. If Dylan hadn’t “betrayed” folk purists we wouldn’t have “Like A Rolling Stone” or any of his stuff after 1964. If Brian Wilson hadn’t brought in outside session musicians we wouldn’t have “Pet Sounds”. But hindsight proves to be the great equalizer here. I’ll check back on the site in another year. Here’s to Merle, Waylon, Hank and the rest of the boys.
March 27, 2016 @ 2:03 pm
First off, I’m glad that you came back to the site.
I just don’t understand why there’s this misconception out there that all, or even most of what Saving Country Music does is negative, and that the majority of the commenters are negative. That just doesn’t hold water when you zoom out and poke around the site a little bit. Each time I see a comment like this (and it’s often), I always go to the home page and ask myself, “Am I being too negative?” And I see album reviews for Margo Price and Williams Michael Morgan. I see really positive stories about Chris Stapleton selling a million copies of his latest album and winning an award. There’s really informative articles about why tickets sell out so fast, and about a tour manager going missing. Even then Hank3 article about not liking the movie, that’s pretty much what every single critic who has seen the movie is saying as well. I had to go to the 2nd page of the site to March 15th and 25 articles ago to truly find an article that was bashing something just because it was bad—Randy Houser’s new album. That Tim McGraw article you brought up was from four years ago. Maybe you saw it on the article suggestion wigit. In fact I’ve written positive reviews for Tim McGraw’s last two records, and his last three singles believe it or not. I think he’s one of the positive stories in country music right now. I don’t even think there’s a majority of people bashing Sturgill for not being country anymore. Certainly that’s how some people feel, but there’s others that are just enjoying the music.
I think some people’s eye gravitate towards negativity. That’s the only way you could come to a site like Saving Country Music and say it’s majority negative. I see a completely different thing. It’s just like picking up a magazine. Not every article is going to appeal to you. But some will, that’s why you thumb through it, looking for something you want to read. I’m flattered some read everything I post, but I don’t expect it. And I try to do the best job I can to keep things more positive than negative.
And if you do feel like people are being too harsh, that’s what the comments section is for. I think your Dylan analogy is fair, and it may help someone else resolve some issue they may have with Sturgill. So I thank you for sharing your opinion, and would suggest you give the site another chance.