“A Sailor’s Guide To Earth” Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson

A Sailor’s Guide To Earth Album Review

Atlantic Records

Genre: Country, Alternative Country, Country Soul, Southern Soul, Psychedelic Country Rock

Released April 15, 2016

If you’ve been paying any attention to the musical trends and tastes of this website, you’ll know country isn’t a genre we hold dear to our hearts (sans Kacey Musgraves). If I were to have another country artist that I would say is worth the listen, it’d be Sturgill Simpson. If Musgraves was important because of her progressive lyricism, then Simpson would be the perfect complement due to his unorthodox approach to the musical aspect of it all. Simpson crafts psychedelic, noisy, and claustrophobic country music similar to Wovenhand, but with some appeal to a wider audience. A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is a record dedicated Simpson’s wife and son; while that may sound cheesy and generic in theory, what follows is a deeply personal record that takes weird and bold musical passages, resulting in one of the most memorable listening experiences of the year.

Improving from his second LP Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, Simpson continues to foster and deepen his fascination with religion, hallucinogenic drugs, relationship, and country music. Furthermore, Simpson deepens he subtext of his work, simultaneously flipping the preconception of himself within the folds of country music and what Metamodern represented onto its head. Sailor’s Guide a change of pace, tone, and mood – a bold creative risk that bleeds with earnest passion and musical subversion. As a whole, the record shows a gigantic step in Simpson’s musical and lyrical talent.

The opening track opens with a very solemn tone, before it’s turned completely upside down as it drastically transforms into a wild creole party. The raucous horns and amped up tempo, create a great vibe that Simpson keeps his control over throughout. Simpson’s croon is remarkable by country standards and has a distinct timbre which keeps his lyricism compelling. Horns come back into the fold on “Keep It Between The Lines”, a sepia-tinged romp of a meditation on father-son dynamics. “Sea Stories” is similarly emotionally charged track, with some slide guitar for added poignancy and flair before a psychedelic shade covers the entire track. Simpson then surprised with a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” – an odd track about your son when sung with the line “sell the kids for food.” It’s enthralling, striking, and admirable to say the least.

The album closes on the rowdiest track Simpson has to offer – an amalgamation of funk, country, psychedelic rock, and soul. The result is an absolutely visceral, urgent, and commanding closing track. Country music is an otherwise banal genre by today’s standards, but I like to think that Simpson is ahead of them all, making sure that those who look down on country music don’t forget that there are a few who are keeping the music fresh, interesting, relevant, and weird. And let me tell you: weird is good.


FAV TRACKS: Welcome To Earth (Pollywog), Keep It Between The Lines, Sea Stories, In Bloom, All Around You, Oh Sarah, Call To Arms

LEAST FAV TRACK: Breakers Roar

SCORE: (8.5/10)

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