Sturgill Simpson has been kicking around for a few years now. His second album, the critically acclaimed Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, crossed over with rock audiences who were hip to his non-mainstream country image. Having seen Sturgill recently in concert, his lively show attracts a diverse crowd of country fans in cowboy hats as well as punk rock, rockabilly and indie rock listeners. In the spring of 2016, Simpson released his major label debut titled A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.
The lyrical theme throughout the new album is Simpson giving life lessons to his newborn son. Album opener “Welcome To Earth (Pollywog)” is an instant classic with heartfelt lyrics that never get sappy atop a bedrock of Dap King horns. “Keep It Between The Lines” is a spirited track about staying on the straight and narrow. Elsewhere, the strings on “Oh Sarah” can get a bit schmaltzy and the listings of cities in “Sea Stories” is less like the adrenaline rush of “Panic” by The Smiths and more like the beer stained remembrances of Springsteen’s “Glory Days”.
One of the notable tracks is Simpson’s cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” which sees a slight lyric change from “he don’t know what it means when I say” to “he don’t know what it means to love someone” which makes it all the more poignant and is the highlight of the album. The rave reviews for A Sailor’s Guide to Earth no doubt means that Simpson has many fans, however, I far prefer the soulful horns vs the easy listening strings that both appear throughout and I’m not sure if I will be belting out many of the on the nose lyrics on long car rides. Having said that, when the next Sturgill concert gets announced you can be sure I’ll be one of the first in line for tickets.