A strange phenomenon occurs when listening to Sturgill Simpson. You are instantly transported to a smoky honky tonk, and it takes a moment to realise that this is not in fact Waylon, nor is it the seventies. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, released on May 12th, is Sturgill Simpson’s second album, and is just about as country as they come. And even more excitingly for the UK country audience, he is performing a headline show on Thursday the 24th July at Bush Hall in London.
He was described by Rolling Stone as the ‘best new country badass’ and it is hard to disagree. During a standout performance on Later With Jools Holland, with just an acoustic guitar and gravelly southern drawl, he completely captured the audience. He pays tribute to the artists that have come before him, from the title of his album – a nod to Ray Charles – to the clear influence of the of ‘outlaw country’ in his music.
Sturgill described the recording process as ‘4 guys, 4 days and 4 reels of tape’ – this sounds like an organic, natural process, that has left us with an album that sounds as if it were delivered by time machine. Merle Haggard once said that he knew that Elvis was a ‘real man’ because he could hear him breathe on his records; you don’t often hear that anymore, but recording on tape gives that lovely buzz and authenticity that completes Simpson’s sound. Recorded with his own band, it has a live feel, and carries that emotion and poignancy that only comes across when the musicians have a real, natural chemistry.
Turtles All The Way Down opens the album, and initially, it sounds like a traditional country ballad, but Simpson distinguishes himself by his lyrics, as it soon becomes apparent that the song is actually about drugs, referencing drug chronicler Rick Strassman. Simpson shows that he can just as successfully tackle faster paced tracks in A Little Light, with gospel style backing vocals. In Just Let Go, he utilises his voice to make bold statements, with sparse instrumentation that leaves the artist vulnerable: ‘woke up today and decided to kill my ego, it never done me no good no how.’ This is an artist who has been working and perfecting his craft, and the result is an album that displays his wide ranging repertoire to the full.
It is rare to find a new country artist that gives you goosebumps, an artist who so fully embodies the essence of the genre, who has found their own distinctive sound, and it is even rarer for these artists perform in the UK. But Sturgill Simpson is doing just that; if you just need that country fix, you’ll find it on 24th July.
Tickets are £13.50 and are on sale now at http://www.gigsandtours.com/tour/sturgill-simpson/.
Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is available now.