Sturgill Simpson is a refreshing throwback of country music purity and goodness. Whereas Jason Eady’s fantastic AM Country Heaven album was a tribute to the music of yesteryear, Simpson’s High Top Mountain sounds like something that was unearthed from the vaults of the famed Hillbilly Central Studio in Nashville. The energy, sound and production is all vintage without losing any modern punch. Simpson’s voice recalls inflections and timbres of many 70’s favorites while maintaining its originality. This is traditional country music done right.
If you have ever jammed a Gary Stewart record under the influence or let the Waylon beat rattle your truck windows, then this record’s for you. There is nothing slick here. There are references to booze, pills, cheating, lying and reverence for the U.S. military…all in one song (“You Can Have the Crown”). Even on the ballads such as “The Storm”, Simpson’s intensity never wanes. He has a double barrels blazing authenticity even at his most introspective like on “Time After All”. But, Simpson is clearly at his best when he’s thumping along just this side of out of control such as on “Poor Rambler” and “Life Ain’t Fair and the World Is Mean”. The album closer is the most genuine sounding cover of Steve Fromholz’s “I’d Have to Be Crazy” since Willie’s; Simpson turns it into some sort of twisted Baptist hymn. Brilliant.
There are no songs about trucks, bonfires or tractors. Just old school country music with themes of hell-raisin’, heartbreak and redemption. A must have album. Without question, this is an early candidate for record of the year…and we must get Sturgill Simpson down to Texas immediately.