Outside the Lines: Sturgill Simpson
Current Location: Tennessee
Most Recent Release: High Top Mountain
For Fans of: Jason Eady, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, 1100 Springs, Whitey Morgan & the 78’s, Shooter Jennings
On Tuesday morning I opened up iTunes on my laptop, hoping to buy one of the greatest country albums of the year, High Top Mountain by Sturgill Simpson. I clicked the “Music” tab, scrolled down to “Country,” and brought up the iTunes homepage for what they are calling “country music.” When I looked at the “new and noteworthy” section of the page, it featured two new songs by Blake Shelton, a Now That’s What I Call Country album, and a variety of albums by artists who spend more time and money on the outfit for the cover of their albums than most Texas artists use on the production of their entire first album.
Sneaking its way into the section was High Top Mountain, a straight-up traditional country kick in the ass. Unfortunately for Simpson, his album has to be in the company of pop country artists, including the very same artist who publicly put down traditional country music not so long ago. I suggest that every country fan that still appreciates and wants to listen to what Blake Shelton would call “their grandpa’s music,” needs to check out this album.
Reminiscent of what Jason Eady did last year with AM Country Heaven, Simpson said in an interview that he decided to make “the record that [he] wasn’t hearing anywhere.” From the very beginning of the album, Simpson sets himself apart from any other artist on country radio today. Instead of proclaiming his status as an outlaw, Simpson does quite the contrary when he sings, “the most outlaw thing I’ve ever done is give a good woman a ring.”
The rollicking “Railroad of Sin” is finished shortly after it starts, leading into the beautifully somber “Water In A Well.” When Simpson utters the first words of the song and sings “they say that looks can be deceiving,” his voice will resonate in a deep chilling way that will make you close your eyes and tilt your head back as if you swallowed a shot of 80 proof. Every time he lets out a Waylon-esque growl it will leave you shaking your head from the soul that Simpson emits.
The rest of the album follows suit with just as much passion and soul as the first three songs. His fast-paced, honky-tonk songs like “You Can Have The Crown” will bring to mind Waylon Jennings and Whitey Morgan combined with hillbilly influences. Growing up in Kentucky may have caused Simpson’s songs to show this bit of bluegrass influence, and his flatpicking on the acoustic shows his talents with the genre as well.
When Simpson slows things down with songs like “Hero,” “I’d Have To Be Crazy,” and the aforementioned “Water In A Well,” he shows his most valuable commodity: sincerity. On every slow Simpson ballad, he evokes an immense amount of feeling, emotion, passion, soul, and all the other words you can think of that can drive a grown man to cry. This is what “country soul” is folks.
This is timeless music that needs to be backed by fans that appreciate sincere and passionate country music. So since iTunes has decided to barely recognize it, and since country radio sure as hell won’t play it, Texas music fans just might have to step up and support this fantastic up and coming artist. Please take a listen to this man’s album, and maybe even buy a copy, so that we all can be lucky enough to hear a follow-up album sometime in the future.