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Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury

October 15, 2019

I saw Sturgill Simpson perform live in the fall of 2017 in support of his A Sailor’s Guide Earth album. The surprise of that live show was that Simpson rocked and shredded. He played some seriously heavy guitar. Sound & Fury is a heavy guitar album, but also with some cool keyboard flourishes. It reminds me of the grimy sound of the Black Keys and the oddball gritty swagger of ZZ Top.

After listening to the album a few times I saw this mini-review from NPR. I wish I wrote this:

Sturgill Simpson makes All-American music, and on his fourth album, that means garage metal happily infected by hip-hop, soaked in California sunshine and lit on fire by the blues. The man once dubbed country’s savior goes full metal jacket on this wild reimagination of Southern rock inspired by the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa and his own lifetime exploration of rugged individualism. — Ann Powers npr.

Wow – not much more can be said. But I will try to add a bit more.

First, there is a companion anime movie on Netflix.

What a thrill it must be for Simpson, an anime fan, to be in a position to commission an anime film to augment his music. The Sound & Fury album is not a soundtrack to a movie – the movie is a “vision-track” to the album. I can only imagine Sturgill geeking out about this. I am not much of an anime fan, but I found this a pretty cool way to consume the album.

Simpson started his recording career with a pretty conventional country album High Top Mountain in 2013. He got a little weirder, but it was still country, with his next album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (2014). That album made it clear Simpson was not going to be constrained by Nashville conventions. But his next album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, made it clear Simpson could and would transcend genres. He did not play country music, he played Sturgill Simpson music. It won a Grammy for Country Album of the Year, but it was also nominated as Album of the Year (losing to Adele’s 25).

In 2016 I wrote:

“Simpson is swinging for the fences. Marvin Gaye elevated Motown to a new art form with his concept album What’s Going On. Simpson is doing the same to Nashville here.”

With Sound & Fury, Simpson makes the case that he is going to have a Neil Young type career: throwing knuckleballs that have wicked movement. The album mixes guitar and keyboards – one moment heavy metal and the next bouncy bubblegum. And somehow those juxtapositions work and are oddly seamless.

He has another Neil Young feature: Simpson can play some gorgeous distorted guitar. To put it bluntly, as Simpson does on the inner sleeve album credits, “**FUCK YOUR SPEAKERS**” I recommend you do that – enjoy.


From → Music Reviews

  1. I didn’t know Sturgill Simpson before this article, but I do know. I’m always down for a mix of Black Keys and ZZ Top, so I’ll be sure to check him out! From one music blogger to another, keep up the good work!

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