Sturgill Simpson always has a surprise up his sleeve, and this time it’s an imaginative music video for Sing Along,” from an album titled Sound & Fury set for September 27 on Elektra Records. Formerly the leader of Sunday Valley, an energetic roots outfit that made some waves in the early years of the new millennium, Sturgill Simpson gained greater renown as a solo artist, initially thanks to his muscular 2013 solo debut High Top Mountain. An outlaw country record in form and feel – its debt to Waylon Jennings clear and unashamed – High Top Mountain became a word-of-mouth hit in 2013, thereby establishing Simpson’s country credentials and opening the door to a wider future.
The six dates are Simpson’s only live appearances scheduled for 2019. In early 2020, he will embark on a nine-stop tour of Europe and the U.K., with around 40 unannounced U.S. dates for next year teased to the New York Times.
Simpson works with the same tools as a traditional country artist, but where most see a hammer, he sees a blade. He’s the rare mainstream risk-taker who sees his chances rewarded. He was once a fairly straightforward country artist, then got a little weirder and a bit more famous. He polished the edges, won a Grammy, smashed his trophy and used the shards to create the hypnotic messiness of Sound & Fury. This album was the only logical progression for him, in that there’s no inherent logic behind it. It’s the Sturgill Simpson way.
David Bowie crafted his art around confounding fans and many may see this as emulating that. It’s an understatement to say the album’s audacious tone and approach will take some getting used to for Americana fans. But those with open minds and an affinity for ’80s sounds should warm up to this unanticipated, intense but generally enticing music.
But consider the roles Simpson has been attracted to — a zombie in Jarmusch’s movie and a hotheaded white police officer who pulls over a black couple in Queen & Slim” — or the various struggles against authority depicted in the Netflix film, which he told the New York Times is about hegemonic structures, politics, corruption, greed.” Clearly this isn’t a guy merely searching for glory onscreen than he can’t get onstage.
Out on tour rather than at home with his young children, Simpson was miserable: Honestly, there was a point in 2017 where I thought I was just going to just go away,” he said plainly. Simpson’s music career didn’t begin in earnest until his mid-30s — he knew what life was like before it, and was mentally prepared for life after it.
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.
Sturgill Simpson will embark on an extensive North American tour this summer and fall, including dates at Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre, D.C.’s DAR Constitution Hall, Denver’s Paramount Theatre (two nights), Seattle’s Paramount Theatre and L.A.’s The Wiltern (two nights). Tickets for the newly confirmed shows will go on-sale this Friday, May 20 at 10:00AM local time. See below for the complete itinerary.
A massive mural depicting the history of seafaring wraps around the entire room, echoing the central concept of Simpson’s acclaimed album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, which he played in full for an ecstatic crowd.
Tickets for Simpson’s six club shows go on sale Wednesday (Sept. 25) at 10AM local time. All of the proceeds from the concerts will be donated to the Special Forces Foundation , a nonprofit that provides resources and support for members of the United States military’s Special Forces and their families.
Last month at San Diego Comic-Con, Grammy Award-winning country singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson announced his forthcoming studio album, Sound & Fury Simpson was at the event previewing a Netflix-bound anime film of the same name which will accompany the new album.
He got a meeting with Hiroaki Takeuchi, a well-connected producer, who subsequently introduced Simpson to Junpei Mizusaki, the director of Batman Ninja,” who told Simpson, I deal with these things, these feelings,” the musician recalled. I know exactly what you’re singing about.” Soon after, a dream team of collaborators divvied up the album song by song: Mizusaki; Takashi Okazaki, the creator of Afro Samurai”; Koji Morimoto, an animator on Akira”; and others.
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.
Rather than make the film directly autobiographical, Simpson created a hyperreal world of evil: hegemonic structures, politics, corruption, greed — you know, things that usually lead to really expletive music,” he said. Basically, we made ‘Yojimbo’ set in a dystopian future,” he explained, referring to the 1961 samurai film.
But the brawny southern soul and jam-band signifiers of A Sailor’s Guide should have put all that talk about outlaw country” to bed. Instead, he was awarded a Grammy for Best Country Album. So, now Simpson is back with Sound And Fury, which arrives Friday accompanied by an original Netflix anime film made with Kamikaze Douga animation studio founder Jumpei Mizusaki and Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki that Simpson has compared to the 1961 Akira Kurosawa film Yojimbo, except set in a dystopian future. WTF, indeed.
Wow, this is a brave move. After stints working for the US navy and the Union Pacific Railroad, Sturgill Simpson has spent the past half decade on an inexorable rise as a star of outlaw country music. There he could have reasonably been expected to stay, but instead he has thrown a grenade into his career with this wild mish-mash of dirty blues, 1980s heartland rock, electronic squeaks and (cover your eyes, country fans) hi-energy disco.
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.
Enter Sound and Fury, which is simultaneously the most left-field, decisively non-country offering of Simpson’s career and precisely the record anyone who has been paying any attention to his career over the last several years would have expected him to make. Over ten songs, Simpson leads his tight-knit rock quartet through a super-charged flow of indignant Southern Rock (Fastest Horse in Town”), strutting disco-boogie (Sing Along”), and pulsing modern blues (Best Clockmaker on Mars”) that do away with the typical melodic, structural conventions of country and folk. A sleazy synth-rock dance record,” he’s called it.
The tour celebrates Simpson’s widely praised new album A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, which sold 55,000 units in its first week (with over 52,000 in pure albums sales) debuting at #1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, #1 on the Billboard Current Albums chart, #1 on Billboard Current Digital Albums chart and #3 on the overall Billboard 200 chart. A Sailor’s Guide To Earth also debuted at #1 on the Billboard Vinyl Albums chart with over 9,400 copies sold.
It starts with footsteps crunching into gravel, a car door opening and slamming shut, perhaps some rain. The radio tunes and tunes, shock jocks fade in and out. An engine revs up. It all sounds pretty country at first, but then the guitar comes in. Ronin,” the first song off Sound & Fury is a sludgy blues jam, more indebted to the swamp funk of the Muscles Shoals movement than anything out of Nashville.
The rationale suited a songwriter whose 2016 album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,” pondered the joy and the pain of fatherhood on its way to winning a Grammy Award for country album. What the explanation left out, though, was that Simpson, 41, also seemed to need an escape from his own success — from its encouragement of a simplistic view of his music and from the expectations it created for whatever he chose to do next.