Album Review | A Sailor’s Guide To Earth – Sturgill Simpson
Album | A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
Artist | Sturgill Simpson
Label | Atlantic
Honky Tonk Album of the Week beginning 8th May 2016
Sturgill Simpson’s self-produced A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a being hailed of one of the most significant releases in Country Music for years – and Simpson himself is increasingly being seen as a the vanguard of a movement that could be pulling the genre away from the auto-tuned pop and soft-rock that has dominated the Country Charts in recent times. He’s giving it back its soul.
Following up the impact of his excellent 2nd album “Metamodern Sounds In Country” (2014) wasn’t going to be easy, but remarkably he has succeeded in delivering something even better. Recorded in Nashville, it features Simpson’s touring band as well as 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.
The album is presented as a life lesson for his new-born son having been inspired by reading a letter that were sent home by his Grandfather while serving away in the Second World War, together with his reflections on being a Father and his observations of how fast his own son is growing up.
He fuses Country sensibility with soul, funk and jazz horns, the songs are beautifully produced with each track acting as a counterpoint to the last. The album opens with “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)” is infused with Folk influences and breaks into pure Southern Soul with The Dap Kings on backing vocals. “Breakers Roar” is a tender Country ballad; while “Keep It Between The Lines” is a scorching Country Funk; “Sea Stories” is the most recognisably Country song on the album, deftly followed by a superb country version of the Nirvana classic “In Bloom”
“Brace for Impact (Live a little)” drives along with a pounding Rock beat; “All Around You” takes us back to Country Soul territory and is one of the standout tracks on the album. Sturgill’s love ballad to his wife “Oh Sarah” (originally recorded in 2010 when he and his band performed and recorded under the name ‘Sunday Valley’). The album ends with some out and out Rock n’ Roll in “Call To Arms”.
If “A Sailors Guide” is a portent to where modern country music is heading we are surely witnessing a renaissance.
Sturgill will be over for a short tour of the UK in July:-
11 July Gorilla, Manchester
12 July The Sage, Gateshead
13 July 02 ABC, Glasgow
15 July Shepherds Bush Empire, London
16th July Latitude Festival, Southwold
‘A Sailor’s Guide To Earth’