Review – Sturgill Simpsons’ “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”

 

Sometime at the end of last summer I came to a realization that I hadn’t bought very many country songs over the last year. I had subconsciously drifted away from the genre. Why did I do this? Well all I had to do was take a look at the top of the country music charts and see the reason why. They were littered with bro country hits from Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. I had heard these songs in passing, but never really listened to them. After listening to “That’s My Kind of Night” and “Cruise” I had realized country music wasn’t country anymore. It was rap, pop and all kinds of horrible.

A few more months passed and I had grown bored with music. Mainstream country music continued to sink to new lows. I thought there had to be some kind of country music out there. So I took to Google and after a few searches I came across a site called, “Saving Country Music.” After exploring this site extensively, I found out a lot of great country music was being produced, except it was all happening in the independent scene.  One guy that caught my eye and was receiving heaps of praise on SCM was Sturgill Simpson. I decided to give his debut solo album “High Top Mountain” a listen. At first I didn’t know what to think of it. Do I love it? Do I hate it? I hadn’t listened to this type of music for a long time, so my ears were kind of stunned by what they heard.

I fell in love with the album after a few more listens and officially became a fan of Simpson. So when he announced early in 2014 that he was releasing another album on May 13, I became excited in anticipation. That leads us to the review of “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.” And folks this is the best album in country music this year. Outlets all over the web, from Grantland to Billboard are praising it. I have nothing bad to say about this album because it is flawless from beginning to end. This won’t be much of a review because I’m just going to praise every song on the album.

The album opens with the first single that was released from it, “Turtles All the Way Down.” On first listen, you will do a double take because of the subject matters mentioned. This song talks about Jesus, Buddha, LSD, marijuana, DMT and “reptile aliens made of light that cut you open and pull out all your pain.” But the song is not about any of these things. It’s about how love is the universal truth. Crazy stuff, huh? This is all while the song sounds every bit of a traditional country song.

The next track, “Life of Sin,” gets back to a more traditional country theme. Simpson sings about thanking God for a life of sin and how “the boys” and him are still working on the sound. My favorite line in the song is “the sex is cheap and the talk is overrated” (Simpson sure has a way with words). Next up is “Living the Dream,” a tell-it-like-it-is song about life. The guitar work in this song is underrated (wait towards the end of the song when it shines through).

“Voices” talks about the voices in your life that are always talking in your ears, but don’t offer a lot to say. We all have those kind of people in our life. “Long White Line” is probably the most country song on the album. It sounds like it’s straight out of the 70s with a theme about driving a big rig across the country while trying to get a girl off your mind. Probably one of my favorites on the album.

The next song on the album is something you might have heard before. Simpson covers the 80s hit, “The Promise,” by When in Rome. While the original is more upbeat and cheesy, Simpson slows it down and turns it into a truly moving love ballad. Did I mention this guy is different from the rest? You’ve probably figured that out by now. Simpson speeds it back up in “A Little Light Within,” a short and traditional, gospel country song.

“Just Let Go” is an overlooked song, but has a great opener: “Woke up today and decided to kill my ego, it never done me no good no how.” To me it’s a song about putting aside your issues and enjoying life. This song also perfectly leads into the most dramatic song of the album, “It Ain’t All Flowers.” This song is a psychedelic country trip that deals with life when things go wrong. Be prepared when Simpson lets out three great hollers in the song, especially the final one just past the halfway point of the song. It will give you goosebumps when you first listen to it. The guitar licks are deliciously funky throughout and feels like the soundtrack to an acid trip, but in a great way. The song is a little long and that may put people off, along with the psychedelic sound.

The bonus track “Pan Bowl” is a personal song to Sturgill Simpson and talks about his life and family growing up. As he said in numerous interviews, the song is a “return to innocence.” Pretty appropriate after taking a trip in “It Ain’t All Flowers.” Personally it made me reflect on my own childhood and it felt like the perfect way to cap off this fantastic album.

A lot of people must be as impressed with “Metamodern Sounds In Country Music” as me because the album debuted at #11 on the Billboard Top Country Album’s chart and #59 on the Billboard Top 200 this week. For an independent artist that you never hear on the radio, that’s pretty damn impressive. I never even heard of Sturgill Simpson at this time last year and now he’s up there on the charts with the likes of Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. I guess people still love traditional country music after all.

I highly doubt this album will be topped by any other country artist this year. It has set the bar for all country albums in 2014. Hell, it’s one of the best in all of music. If you love traditional country music or just great music in general, go buy this album right now.

It’s only my second review on this site, but it’s highly deserving of getting this grade (don’t get used to seeing it too often though).

Grade: 10/10

Click here to buy “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.”

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