By consensus of critics and fans alike, in my neck of the woods, the best album of 2014 is Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. I assume that other genres still exist, but we’ll ignore them for now. In fact, the acclaim for Sturgill has far exceeded the typical confines of the country music audience. I cannot recall the last time an independent country artist received this much attention, all without the support of Nashville’s Music Row. The reason is simple. The songs are too undeniably good, regardless of your musical proclivities. If you don’t like this, then you should probably stop listening to music altogether:
That’s how it is done, folks. I love Letterman at the end. In interviews, Sturgill has said that it took 35 years to write the album — his whole life. The lyrics frequently deal with sin and finding the light, questioning God and religion along the way. This may put some country fans off, not to mention the drug use and overall hippie ethos of the album. See “Turtles All the Way Down.” But, it is refreshingly authentic, to use a now cliché expression.
He is often compared to Waylon Jennings and for obvious reasons. Both musically and vocally, this could have been a Waylon album, circa 1973-1978. His vocal styling bears an uncanny resemblance to Waylon’s. But the most significant comparison is in the excellence of the production, due to Dave Cobb. Waylon Jennings was meticulous in the production of his records. Everything harmonized perfectly but without polish, making records that were modern but with all of the integrity of the past. Sturgill and Cobb have achieved the same feat here.
Image: Sturgill Simpson, by Melissa Madison Fuller (source)