We finally know about Americana and country singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson ‘s first album in over three years: It’s a collection of dystopian rock songs titled Sound & Fury. It seems almost beside the point to note that Sturgill Simpson’s fourth album sounds nothing like its predecessors, as his previous three albums didn’t sound much like each other either. His self-funded 2013 debut, High Top Mountain , suggested the arrival of an arch-traditionalist, a former serviceman and railroad worker, whose vision of country music was rooted in that of artists who balked at Nashville’s tendency to slather everything in a coat of gloss: a defiantly retro reanimation of the late 70s outlaw country” of Waylon Jennings or Hank Williams Jr. But its successor, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music , was a kind of psychedelic opus, sprinkled with paeans to LSD and DMT – woke up this morning and decided to kill my ego … gonna break on through and blast off to the Bardo,” opened Just Let Go – frequently set to music that matched: Mellotron and wah-wah guitars, vocals drenched in spaced-out echo.
Simpson’s trek begins on Sunday (Sept. 29) at the famous Troubadour in West Hollywood, followed by stops at Terrapin Crossroads, a farm-to-table music venue founded by the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh, in San Rafael, Calif. on Oct. 1 and the Independent in San Francisco on Oct. 2. He’ll then make his way to the East Coast for a string of sets at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Oct. 6, the Black Cat in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 7 and Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. on Oct. 8.
It all began when Sturgill Simpson was recognized in 2012 for his debut, High Top Mountain, which was self-funded and released. The rising of his sophomore album Metamodern Sounds In Country Music shows off his unique Outlaw” type of musical talent and proves Sturgill is not your everyday country artist.
Nashville offered an emphatic “no thanks,” and Simpson made sure they weren’t going to make friends anytime soon when he decided to busk outside the arena during the 2017 CMA Awards after he received zero nominations. Someone filmed the performance and posted it to YouTube If you click the link, make sure you notice that his Grammy is displayed in his open guitar case.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth In March of 2016, he released “Brace for Impact (Live a Little),” as the first single from the full-length A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. The self-produced album was released in April and featured a guest appearance from the Dap-Kings. It earned rave reviews plus a surprise nomination for Grammy’s Album of the Year.
I turned to my son, who loves Sturgill’s music, and said, “This is isn’t country music. It’s hardly music. It’s a bunch of guys making noise that other guys sell to people who like noise but think it’s music.” He didn’t quite get what I was saying but I figured the seeds I was planting would be helpful in later years.
In popular music, there are precious few of these figures left. Frank Ocean is one — we will happily watch him for hours on a livestream working on his carpentry because we appreciate that this is truly a WTF?” move. And then there’s Sturgill Simpson , the most mercurial artist in modern country. The prodigal outlaw who shuns the outlaw label, which only fortifies his outlaw cred. A man who was nominated for Album Of The Year just three years ago, and yet has minimal presence on country radio and has shown even less interest in catering to the industry forces who greatly determine mainstream success.
By 2016, of course, fellow outlaw-adjacent throwback Chris Stapleton had been installed as Nashville’s official avatar of authenticity, and Simpson appeared to be, if not next in line, then the throwback belter so authentic Nashville would never quite embrace him, which is an even cooler lane to be in. Simpson in fact waged a casual one-man protest outside the 2017 CMA Awards after the quote-unquote Country Grammys snubbed him, busking and collecting donations for the ACLU and holding forth on such topics as Trump (no) and gun control (yes). It surprised me that he gave a shit about the CMAs at all, but his orneriness was delightful regardless.
Simpson described Sound & Fury to the Times as a form of therapeutic indignation,” with very specific visual and sonic reference points: I wanted it to hit like a Wu-Tang record.” The result is, in fact, much stranger than a Wu-Tang record, or at least far more unexpected, not to mention outright hostile to anybody—including, yes, you—with the audacity to expect anything from Simpson at all. The record ends with a calamitous, slow-burning rager called Fastest Horse in Town” that sounds like Buddy Guy jamming with Metallica, and the conundrum here might be that if everyone loves this radical new direction too much, and too loudly, then Simpson will promptly respond by never returning to it ever again.
He has been violently opposed to the outlaw badge, and the hordes of industry yes-men eager to pin it on him, from the very beginning. Simpson broke out in 2014 with Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, a warmer and druggier affair (see Turtles All the Way Down” ) that remains my favorite record of his for the decidedly uncool reason that his cover of the ’80s synth-pop classic The Promise” is incomprehensibly beautiful. He cashed in all that critical goodwill (and monetary label-goon goodwill) to make A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, a luscious and opulent country-soul space odyssey that sounded amazing live. That record kicked off with Welcome to Earth (Pollywog),” a planetarium folk anthem torn between new fatherhood and newfound road-warrior stardom that’ll still have you in ecstatic tears long before the horns kick in.
On his new album Sound & Fury,” out Friday, Simpson steps firmly away from the outlaw country sound where some once considered him a torchbearer. Instead, the ventures deep into the underbelly of fuzzy, futuristic guitar rock.
Simpson emerged as a radical force in outlaw country in 2014 with the release of his second LP, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.” Fans and critics went wild, but country radio thought songs like “Turtles All the Way Down” were a bit too weird for their audience.
Sturgill Simpson will follow the release of the Sound & Fury album and anime film with a short run of tour dates. Each stop at an intimate venue will help raise funds for a good cause. All of the net proceeds from the shows are being donated to the Special Forces Foundation , a non-profit organization that provides immediate and ongoing support to Army Special Forces soldiers, “Green Berets,” and their families.
Sound & Fury the film was created by Simpson in partnership with writer, director and Kamikaze Douga animation studio founder Jumpei Mizusaki and character designer and Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki. Koji Morimoto, Michael Arias, Masaru Matsumoto, Henry Thurlow and Arthell Isom also directed, while Shunsuke Ochiai co-executive produced, and Hiroaki Takeuchi served as a production executive. The film is set to music from Simpson’s album of the same name, with each song receiving its own segment.
Ironically, the result is a proudly rebellious record about refusing the record industry’s attempts to make Simpson the new face of so-called outlaw country.
In addition to the Making Music in Graphic Novels” panel, Simpson will also appear at NYCC’s “Sound & Fury: Creators of Animatrix and Batman Ninja Unite for Sturgill Simpson” panel on Oct. 5 at 2:45pm in Room 1A24.
Nonetheless, Sailor’s Guide won a Grammy for best country album, and scored a surprise nomination for album of the year – while also seeing Simpson embraced by the Americana community, where he received album of the year at the 2017 Americana Music Honors & Awards. Following that album with a loose-concept rock record accompanying a Netflix anime film is an odd choice on paper, but with Sound & Fury, Nashville’s most unpredictable star turns the idea into another stunning LP.
Two ways after the new album arrives, Simpson will play relatively small venues between Los Angeles and New York. Whether this is an intentional statement of purpose or not, spots like The Black Cat in Washington, DC are associated with punk rock, not country music or Americana.
Where some artists find inspiration from other music, Simpson found his in books, devouring religious texts both ancient and modern, recent studies about discoveries in quantum physics and string theory, and publications by Carl Sagan and Terence McKenna. He also drew upon French filmmaker Gaspar Noe’s experimental drama Enter the Void as he created murky, multi-‐textured soundscapes that incorporate elements of classic country, bluegrass, rock, and even a bit of electronica, a genre that Simpson admits he has a slight fetish” for.
Sound & Fury closes with Fastest Horse in Town,” a seven-minute burner that leaves little doubt regarding Simpson’s place in the modern rock canon. The guitars on Horse” screech and claw, beam down from the sun and scorch the Earth. His voice struggles for breath amongst the cacophony, a desperate situation yielding ecstatic results. It’s a song with epic ambition – the solos are unending, but not a second is wasted, and the double-time outro would be clichéd if it wasn’t so enthralling.
It climaxes with Fastest Horse in Town, a psychedelicised take on old-fashioned, pre-Nevermind grunge: dense, corrosive guitars howling and arcing around Simpson’s voice, the latter rendered incomprehensible with reverb and electronic effects. It’s a hugely exciting end to a hugely exciting album that underlines Simpson’s status as a daring, restless and unique artist. He isn’t the first musician to throw his label a curveball while protesting about the pressures of fame and the grim nature of the music business. That said, it’s hard to think of anyone else who’s done it by making an album as gripping and enjoyable as this.
Sturgill Simpson will not officially tour in 2019, as he is currently working on his latest album, which is expected to be a double album. However, he may appear at some concerts and shows. You can check StubHub to see his next performance dates.
The set made the Top Country Albums top 10, and found its way to No. 59 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It was successful enough to warrant significant buzz in the country community for his follow-up, which would end up moving even further from Nashville’s center: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth was an ode from Sturgill to his newborn son, one which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and found its way to the top of folk, rock, and country albums charts. But while Simpson’s voice was inflected by a pronounced twang on the album, Sailor was largely marked by big-band horns and weepy strings – less a straightforward country album than a doo-wop soul record filtered through a country lens.
Simpson’s tour launches two days after the release of his fourth studio album, Sound & Fury, on Friday (Sept. 27). An accompanying anime film created by the singer and directed by a team of revered Japanese anime artists will debut on Netflix the same day. Sound & Fury follows the release of Simpson’s lauded 2016 project, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, which won Best Country Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards.
Sturgill Simpson’s highly anticipated new album ‘A Sailor’s Guide To Earth’ was released on April 15 on Atlantic Records earning the singer-songwriter a coveted No.1Â spot in the US Billboard charts.
Sturgill Simpson was characteristically plainspoken Sunday night when he told his audience at the Troubadour why it had been nearly a year since he’d played his last full concert: He and his wife recently welcomed the third of three young sons, explained this disruptive roots-music star, which inspired him to quit the road to stay home and chop firewood” in southeast Tennessee.
Recorded primarily at Nashville’s The Butcher Shoppe, Simpson was joined in the studio by Grammy Award-winning engineer David Ferguson (Johnny Cash, John Prine, Cowboy” Jack Clement) and assistant engineer Sean Sullivan. Along with members of his touring band, the album features Dave Roe on bass, Dan Dugmore on steel guitar, Dougie Wilkinson on bagpipes, Garo Yellin and Arthur Cook on cello, Jonathan Dinklage and Whitney LaGrange on violin and special guests The Dap-Kings.
It is also not a country album. It’s high-viscosity Southern rock à la ZZ Top, with a potent rhythmic undertow. A sleazy synth-rock dance record,” he said, citing John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers’ album with Eric Clapton, and also the Bee Gees, Cheap Trick, T. Rex and La Roux as touchstones.
Let’s argue about whether or not Sturgill Simpson is country. Actually, let’s not. That conversation might or might not be dead, but it’s certainly irrelevant. Simpson hasn’t sat comfortably within Nashville at any point, nor has he quite allowed himself to be categorized otherwise, unless there’s a genre for shifting uneasily around the edges of country.” With Sound & Fury, he makes that break from tradition complete. The album soundtracks an anime film and goes back in time and fully into rock ‘n’ roll mode.
In March 2016, he released “Brace for Impact (Live a Little),” as the first single from the full-length A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. The self-produced album was released in April and featured a guest appearance from the Dap-Kings It earned rave reviews plus a surprise nomination for Grammy’s Album of the Year. Although it lost the big award, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth did win Best Country Album at the 2017 Grammys.
Rather than expanding on country sounds, Simpson draws from the sort of music that came out of smalltown Pontiac Firebirds in the mid-’80s. Take some boogie-rock and some overdriven guitars, put down the windows and lap the block. Better yet, see how fast you can get on a curvy country road. Simpson turns it loose for 40 minutes. Even as an outsider, he’s rarely sounded like he’s cared less about what anyone else thinks. The sound itself is the message: it’s loud and pointed directly at you.
And if Simpson is as discomfited by success and critical praise as Mercury in Retrograde suggests – journalists and people asking what his songs mean seem to rank only slightly higher in his estimation than hypocrites building brands – then unfortunately, he’s going to have to suck it up for a little while longer. Sing Along , like the rest of Sound & Fury, is awesome: powerful, fierce, irresistible.
Simpson traveled to Japan six times to supervise the creation of the movie, which cost around $1.2 million to make — Something they just had to do to get me to turn the record in,” he joked about his record label’s involvement.