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Country - Released October 16, 2020 | High Top Mountain Records

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Country - Released August 20, 2021 | High Top Mountain Records

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Sturgill Simpson loves a curveball. He's excelled at Americana, country soul, covers of Nirvana and When In Rome's "The Promise," traditional bluegrass and a whole record of ZZ Top-style heavy rock. He's been nominated for both Best Country Album and Best Rock Album by the Grammys. He sounds, and acts, like an outlaw—hell, sometimes he sounds just like Waylon Jennings—but rejects that label. So it should be no surprise that his seventh studio album is such a surprise. It's not an ode to old-time mountain music. It is old-time mountain music, and bluegrass, tent-revival gospel and country from the Carter Family up to Johnny Cash. The Ballad of Dood & Juanita is like a movie, telling a (tall?) tale of Simpson's real-life grandparents. (That's the singer's late "Pawpaw," Lawrence "Dood" Fraley’s drawl you hear opening 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.) It starts out with a character sketch set to a musket shot-riddled march: "[Dood] was a mighty mountain man, [Juanita] was his one true love." We learn that Dood was "harder than the nails hammered Jesus' hands" but Juanita tamed his heart. Then she was kidnapped by a bandit, prompting Dood to set off with his mule and dog ("One in the Saddle, One on the Ground"). There are odes to the mule (the Cash-like "Shamrock") and dog ("Sam" and its heart-wrenching gospel a cappella). Poor, pitiful Dood suffers insult to injury when Sam dies while they're searching for his wife ("Played Out")—who then shows up in dream form for the Spanish-flavored "Juanita," appealingly Marty Robbins-eque with what sounds like castanets and maraca. Hallelujah, Juanita is rescued, and so is Dood, thanks to a wise tribe of Cherokee, plus some Stanley Brothers harmonies and a slow-train harmonica howl. Perhaps a spoiler warning should've come a dozen times by now, but Dood exacts his revenge on the evil bandit by the end. Even for all that, it doesn't pack the emotional wallop of an old Simpson song like "Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)" but it's an interesting concept and a loving tribute, and much more than just novelty. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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Country - Released December 11, 2020 | High Top Mountain Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 27, 2019 | Elektra (NEK)

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Sturgill Simpson started off country, but he's almost impossible to classify on his fourth album. There's still that outlaw spirit, but—even more so than on his groundbreaking A Sailor's Guide to Earth—Simpson dives deep into '70s sleaze-funk, psych-rock and the bottom-heavy blues of Derek and the Dominos (spiking it with prog-rock weirdness on the "Best Clockmaker on Mars" and hurricane-force feedback for "Fastest Horse in Town"). ZZ Top guitars collide with new-wave keyboards for "Sing Along." "A Good Look," with shimmering high-hat and spaced-out keys, recalls Beck's Midnite Vultures sound, minus the horns. "Make Art Not Friends" offers two minutes of ambient chill before loping into a needling-guitar groove that dovetails the '90s indie-rock revival. "Last Man Standing" is a '50s greaser-rock lark, while "Ronin" and "Remember to Breathe" are carried by pulsing hip-hop bass and percussion. "Mercury in Retrograde" ("Mercury must be in retrograde again / but at least it's not hanging around pretending to be my friend") serves up a wild mix of beach-bum rhythms, cosmic strings and Skynyrd edge. Somehow, all those ingredients add up to one of the best albums of 2019. © Qobuz
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Country - Released April 15, 2016 | Atlantic Records

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Country - Released May 19, 2014 | Loose Music

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Country - Released April 15, 2016 | Atlantic Records

Back when he released High Top Mountain in 2013, the retro sensibilities of Sturgill Simpson seemed to be rooted solely in outlaw country: he swaggered like the second coming of Waylon Jennings, a man on a mission to restore muscle and drama to country music. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, his 2014 sophomore set, was a curve ball revealing just how unorthodox his rulebook was. After nearly two decades of alternative country doubling down on po-faced authenticity where simpler was better, Simpson embraced indulgence, pushing new wave, psychedelia, and digital-age saturation, all in an attempt to add the cosmic back into American music. A Sailor's Guide to Earth goes one step further: it's an old-fashioned concept album, one that tells a story -- it's a letter to his newborn son, telling him how to become a man -- and is dressed in garish art suited to the side of a Chevy van. The overarching aesthetics are a throwback to the golden age of vinyl but Simpson is too smart to succumb to mere revivalism: he seeks to expand, not retract. To that end, he'll posit that Nirvana's "In Bloom" exists on a continuum that runs back toward Glen Campbell's renditions of Jimmy Webb tunes, which hints at how, for as steeped in the '70s as A Sailor's Guide to Earth is, Simpson doesn't limit his prog to merely rock. He's equally attracted to the symphonic haze of progressive folk and the boundary-blurring soul of Muscle Shoals, using its thick swathes of horns and smears of slide guitar as binding agents in songs that occasionally need to be pulled together. Blame that on Simpson sometime prioritizing the journey over the destination. He's certainly not indifferent to songs -- strong ones punctuate the voyage, ones that veer closer to soul than country -- but he cherishes the voyage, so there are times when A Sailor's Guide to Earth threatens to float away on a slipstream of strings and melodies that are heartfelt and hookless. Even at these moments, his ambition remains ingratiating: he might not quite arrive precisely where he intended, but as he makes it so clear throughout the album, what matters is the journey itself. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 30, 2021 | Oh Boy Records

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Country - Released June 13, 2019 | Elektra (NEK)

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Country - Released February 17, 2014 | Loose Music

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Country - Released March 4, 2016 | Atlantic Records

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Country - Released March 25, 2016 | Atlantic Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 20, 2019 | Elektra (NEK)

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Country - Released April 8, 2014 | LOOSE