Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gut Feeling: Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
High Top Mountain, 2014

“What kind of music are you into?”
“Anything but country.”

This dismissive bit of dialogue is one we all know well. I’m assuming everyone has either asked that question and braced for that response or, in ones younger, more vulnerable years, said that statement out loud. I’m sure I did. Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is the record that you use in response to “anything but country.” You shove it into the dismisser’s hands and say, “Here, if you can’t even remotely appreciate the rambling beauty of this record I don’t even know you.” Because there’s just so much to like about Simpson’s sophomore LP. And really, who doesn’t like outlaw country? I bet everyone who ever said “anything but country” would cop to liking Johnny Cash, right? Simpson is more of a Waylon Jennings, but that’s no matter. He sounds displaced from his proper era. His songs are certainly modern and often weird as hell, but the sound is pure late-60s Nashville. At first it feels like pure throwback, but repeat listens reveal it’s pretty slippery. Hard to pin down or pigeonhole as a pure tribute to the outlaw country legends of forty years ago. What are you supposed to do with lines like “There’s a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there beyond this plane/ Where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain” from the opening track “Turtles All the Way Down.” It’s pure psychedelia, and if you don’t believe me, listen to Simpson sing “Marijuana, LSD, Psilocybin, and DMT/ They all changed the way I see” in the next verse. Simpson might have the voice of a shitkicking rabble rouser (I mean that as the highest compliment, his voice is tremendous, absolutely fucking tremendous and if you don’t believe me, wait til he belts out the last chorus of his cover of When in Rome’s “The Promise” and tell me I’m wrong) but goddamn this son of a bitch is deep. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is an intoxicating listen with deep roots and sharp claws (“But it ain’t all flowers/ Sometimes you gotta feel the thorns/ And when you play with the devil you know you gotta get the horns”) that dig right into your skin without mercy.

Here's Sturgill Simpson's Tiny Desk Concert, which is a terrific gateway drug.

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