Take a Trip with Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

By Mark Lennon

Sturgill Simpson’s well documented burst onto the americana and country scene came with a loud twang-bang. 2014’s Metamodern Sounds In Country Music with producer Dave Cobb harnessed the raw energy of Waylon Jennings’ throbbing country groove with psychedelic poetry and acoustic underpinnings making a legion of Sturgill fans seemingly overnight.

SturgillSimpsonArtThe one thing you can never do with an artist is to guess or assume what their next move is. On A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, released April 15, Sturgill’s self produced record takes a strange trip into the dark oblivion. Reportedly written as a concept-type record as a letter to his first child. Sturgill made the record he wanted to make, not what was expected of him.

Opening like a movie soundtrack between tinkling piano and a string quartet, his booming voice “Hello my son, welcome to earth, may not be my last but will always be my first,” lays in a bed of weeping pedal steel before the song jumps into a 60s soul groove. “Breakers Roar,” the beautifully introspective song that follows, with tender finger picking, steel whale squeals, smoothed over with strings echoing with the refrain “It’s all a dream, it’s all a dream.” Sturgill taps into a soul funk groove with “Keep It Between The Lines” with sax grunts, horn bops and Rhodes chops, a waylon-esp four on the floor bass drum breaks, reminding us “don’t sweat the small stuff.”

“Sea Stories” comes as more of what you would expect, melodically along the lines of his last record. “I got Sea Stories, that are true, might seem a little bit far fetched, why would I lie to you, memories of ink forever stained, still got salt running through my veins, I got Sea Stories and my shell back too.”

“In Bloom [Nirvana Cover]” has been talked about as it was a pre-release. Now hearing it in context of the record it fits in with the vibe dreamscape Sturgill has created. “Brace For Impact (Live A Little)” a blues rock song with throbbing bass, slide guitar and strange moog-esq synth has a bit dated 80s produced feeling. “All Around You” again tapping into the 60s soul horns and strings mixed with underlying acoustic guitar riffs and pedals steel. Did Phil Spector break out of jail for this cut?

“Oh Sarah” with moaning cello and plucking strings,“Sometimes this life, feels like, a big ole dream, i’m floating around on a cloud inside. When my cloud starts coming apart at the seems, oh Sarah, thats when i slide….” Between ocean waves and seagulls squalls “Call To Arms” opens to driving piano, sax and horns pushing an energetic throbbing roadhouse rhythm, apparently ranting about political, cultural events with a little North Korea and Kim Jong Un thrown in, with the relatable “Ain’t nobody looking up to care about a drone, i’m too busy looking down at a phone.”

A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is an etherial soundscape that flows between soul, 60s pop, dreamy strings quartets, stream of conscious production and excellent lyrics in a country music blender. If you are looking for his Metamodern Sounds In Country Music follow up to be the Outlaw Country savior with blistering country guitar riffs and honky tonkin anthems, this isn’t the album. If you are looking for a thoughtful perspective unbound by the very idea of being the next country music savior, support Sturgill Simpson because this is only the beginning.  |  buy  |  fb

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