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Monday, March 24, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
March 22, 2014
Scott Foley

I first discovered Sturgill Simpson during his time as frontman for Sunday Valley. On the heels of the release of 2011's celebrated To the Wind and On To Heaven, Simpson announced that the ever evolving band would heretofore be going by the name Sturgill Simpson and High Top Mountain. Last year's High Top Mountain proved to be a high point for 2013, a refreshing breath of trad country in a world drawn to hybrids. Less than a year later, Sturgill Simpson dials down the honky tonk and blurs the focus on Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Simpson is still in superb vocal form, one of the finest country singers since the dawn of Dwight Yoakam. His new record loosely explores the psychedelics and strings favored by late 60s and 70s country. The album opener establishes the mood with a curious tale of drugs and reptile abduction, "Turtles All the Way Down".
There's a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there beyond this plane / Where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain / Tell me how you make illegal something that we all make in our brain / Some say you might go crazy but then again it might make you go sane

It's hardly Harlan Howard.  "Life of Sin" paints a picture of a paranoid Simpson "smoking my brain hazy", though offering a more traditional honky tonk spirit.  The most trad moment arrives with a standard take on "Long White Line", though the im-balance is quickly restored with the record's most curious cut, a cover of When In Rome's "The Promise", distilled into a country ballad and given a seriously moving vocal turn.  "Just Let Go" advocates for "Taking a 49 divine day vacation from reality", floating upon echoing steel guitars that drift from speaker to speaker.  It's really a dark and distorted statement, especially following a collection that seemed more directed towards simply having a good time.  Still, Metamodern Sounds makes more of a personal artistic declaration that assures Simpson's place at the forefront of artists.  Make sure you stick around for the hidden track that follows the aural freakout of "It Ain't All Flowers". 

*  Railbenders, "I-70 Westbound"  Showdown  (Self, 06)  C
*  Ryan Adams, "Shakedown on 9th Street"  Heartbreaker  (Bloodshot, 00)
*  Gord Downie, the Sadies & the Conquering Sun, "Crater"  self-titled  (Arts + Crafts, 14)  D
*  Johnny Cash, "Out Among the Stars"  Out Among the Stars  (Capitol, 14)
*  Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray, "Election Year Blues"  Lean Into the Wind  (Seven Dead Arson, 14)
*  Shouting Matches, "I'll Be True"  Grownass Men  (BDC, 13)
*  Holmes Brothers, "You've Got To Lose"  Brotherhood  (Alligator, 14)  D
*  Esme Patterson, "Never Chase a Man"  Woman to Woman  (Greater Than Collective, 14)  C
*  Lucero, "From the Git Go"  Songs For Slim  (New West, 13)
*  Old 97s, "Let's Get Drunk & Get It On"  Most Messed Up  (ATO, 14)
*  Carlene Carter, "Poor Old Heartsick Me"  Carter Girl  (Rounder, 14)
*  Rodney Crowell, "Frankie Please"  Tarpaper Sky  (New West, 14)
^  Sturgill Simpson, "Turtles All the Way Down"  Metamodern Sounds in Country Music  (High Top Mt, 14)
*  Luke Doucet, "Dirty Dirty Blonde"  Steel City Trawler  (Six Shooter, 10)
*  Hurray For the Riff Raff, "End of the Line"  Small Town Heroes  (ATO, 14)
*  Eric Church, "Man Who Was Gonna Die Young"  Outsiders  (EMI, 14)
*  Chad Sullins & Last Call, "Might Leave In the Fall"  Wicked Spell  (Self, 14)  D
*  Flying Burrito Bros, "Close Up the Honky Tonks"  Hot Burritos  (A&M, 00)
*  Birch Street, "Mama"  Birch Street  (Self, 14) C,D
*  Hard Working Americans, "Mountain Song"  Hard Working Americans  (Melvin, 14)
*  Charlie Parr, "Where You Gonna Be"  When the Devil Goes Blind  (Nero's Neptune, 10)
*  Jon Langford, "Summer Stars"  Here Be Monsters  (In de Goot, 14)
*  Secret Sisters, "Rattle My Bones"  Put Your Needle Down  (Republic, 14)  D
*  Stone Jack Jones, "O Child"  Ancestor  (Western Vinyl, 14)  D
*  4H Royalty, "Shape of Karaoke To Come"  Liars & Outliers  (m12, 13)  C
*  Nikki Lane, "All or Nothin'"  All or Nothin'  (New West, 14)
*  Levon Helm, "Back To Memphis (live)"  Ramble At the Ryman  (Vanguard, 11)
*  Promised Land Sound, "Empty Vase"  Promised Land Sound  (Paradise of Bachelors, 13)
*  Songs: Ohia, "Soul"  Journey On: Collected Singles  (Secretly Canadian, 14)  D
*  Jolie Holland, "Waiting For the Sun"  Wine Dark Sea  (Anti, 14)

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