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Album Review: Sturgill Simpson’s ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth’

Sturgill Simpson has truly outdone himself with his latest album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Simpson is one of the most inventive country artists in decades and is truly redefining the genre. His latest album brings in several different styles of music from 1960’s soul in “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)”, to 1970’s hard rock in “Call to Arms”, and he even throws in some 90’s alternative with his cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”. It is truly magical to hear him weave decades of styles together with classic country, folk, and bluegrass sounds. But the one thing that is constant in each song is Simpson lets you know he is first and foremost a country singer.

Simpson shared with Rolling Stone, “Some people will say, and have said, that I’m trying to run from country, but I’m never going to make anything other than a country record. As soon as I open my mouth, it’s going to be a country song. . . but it doesn’t make the think pieces any less amusing. I thought it was hilarious when ‘Brace for Impact’ was released and people said I had abandoned country even though the song is dripping with pedal steel. If anything, that tells me I’m making progress.”

This deeply personal album takes on emotional and often times turbulent topics by drawing inspiration from the birth of his son and his time in the Navy.  Reading like a sailor’s letter to his wife and newborn son, Simpson takes listeners on a passionate and thought-provoking journey. Simpson loves to wax poetic with his lyrics and doesn’t shy away from being honest in his songs. But in order to do this album right, Simpson shared that he had to self-produce this album without the help of his longtime collaborator Dave Cobb.

“Due to the personal nature of the album I decided it was best not to collaborate with anyone,” he says. “I knew I wanted to make a concept record in song-cycle form, like my favorite Marvin Gaye records where everything just continuously flows. I also wanted it to be something that when my son is older and maybe I’m gone, he can listen to it and get a sense of who I was.”

A Sailor’s Guide To Earth doesn’t follow the same formula that brought Simpson wild acclaim on his previous album, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music. It would have been easy to apply the same sounds and instrumentation but Simpson definitely created a brand new sound and feel to his latest album. This album further demonstrates the insane musical talent Simpson possesses and solidifies this Kentuckian’s status as folk music’s rebel savior.

If you fall in love Simpson’s album, be prepared to be blown away at his live shows. “The album was recorded live, so it will be pretty fun to recreate,” he says. “Strings, horns, 30 deckhands singing shanty songs. . . the whole works.” Simpson is currently on tour and will begin his European leg of the tour beginning at the end of June. Don’t worry, though, he will re-emerge stateside in October  so definitely makes sure to get tickets to a show nearest you. His tour schedule can be found here. But don’t wait to buy tickets, his shows sell out fast!

 

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