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Design By Humans
Published On: Fri, May 27th, 2016

Sturgill Simpson: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

stur sSturgill Simpson
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
(Atlantic Recording Corporation)

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On his third, full-length release, Sturgill Simpson continues to push the boundaries of what’s perceived to be country music. He’s not shy about admitting his musical influences stretch far beyond Waylon Jennings, to whom many have compared him; in fact, he said in a recent NPR Music interview that his preferences as a kid leaned closer to soul, specifically Otis Redding, who Sturgill counts as one of his musical idols. His first album, High Top Mountain, is the closest thing to country you’ll find in his catalog, though his lyrics on the record are far from ordinary for the genre. In fact, “You Can Have the Crown” includes more than a few indulgences in mocking the dull simplicity of country songwriting that consists of searching for whatever might rhyme with the previous line. His second record, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, bends closer to the realm of psychedelic and is unafraid to document his experimentation with drug use, a topic that’s certainly taboo in country pop circles. The success of the album, which earned a Grammy nomination and a ranking among NPR’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2014, demonstrates Sturgill’s connection with a large population of country fans who want to break down the walls in which the genre has been confined. There’s plenty more genre-bending to be found on A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, but what’s most notable about the album is that Sturgill wrote it for his son as a guide to help him navigate the often murky waters of youth and young adulthood. The record’s instrumentation includes plenty of homages to the soul music he grew up on, with horns and saxophones frequently punctuating the singer’s offerings of wisdom. It also boasts a heartfelt rendition of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” that’s worth more than a few listens. Deeply sincere “All Around You” reminds the younger Simpson that Sturgill is always thinking about him, even when he’s out on the road performing. It’s the genre eclecticism in this album that will grab your attention, but what’s most meaningful here is Sturgill’s devotion to his son and his family, and you can feel his passion on every track.

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Sturgill Simpson: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth