Meta Modern Sounds In Country Music

Episode 174: Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide To Earth

Episode 174: Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide To Earth

The historic Howard Theatre in Washington, DC is in trouble. Again. How did we get here and what the hell can anyone do about it?

Sturgill Simpson has followed up his breakout album Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, with the ambitious, genre hopping, expectation defying love letter to his son, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. Is it another masterpiece or has the country “outlaw” bit off more than he can chew this time out? We aim to find out.

Merle Haggard is gone and that that f%&ing sucks. We listen to some country and shed a tear of the loss of this legendary songwriter.


Sturgill Simpson @ 9:30 Club - 2/13/15

Sturgill Simpson @ 9:30 Club - 2/13/15

Over the past year, Sturgill Simpson has gone from being a relative unknown operating on the fringes of Nashville, to not just one of the year’s biggest success stories thanks to his Meta Modern Sounds In Country Music, but potentially one of music’s biggest artists. (For the sake of discussion, let’s put the ‘country’ label down for the time being.) With multiple gigs on Letterman under his belt, an exponentially growing fan base, and a year-end feather in his cap of signing with Atlantic Records, it would seem that Simpson has arrived. That last point may give those who cling to the “outsider” image that’s been cultivated in the press (and, to a lesser extent, by Simpson himself) pause, until they consider that in 2014 the world came to him, not the other way around.

When we reported on Simpson’s also-sold-out performance at the Birchmere last year, the entire review could have been summed up as “jaw-dropping.” Even though the locale might have changed, not much else has. 


Sturgill Simpson @ The Birchmere - 8/19/14

Sturgill Simpson @ The Birchmere - 8/19/14

For all of the acclaim – and rightfully so – that Simpson’s album Metamodern Sounds In Country Music has received this year, so much attention has been paid to drug references and science fiction metaphysics, it’s easy to forget that at the heart of Simpsons songs, both Metamodern and 2013’s High Top Mountain, lies the same themes that have informed country music since its inception. Loss. Regret, bad love and even worse hangovers; it’s all there mixed in with the brighter sides of life.

Last week, Simpson and his stellar band turned the Birchmere into a dusty, boozy honky-tonk with a heart. Whether a knowing wink to the current climate around Country music, or simply something he just felt like knocking out, a near faithful cover of the Willie Nelson classic “Sad Songs and Waltzes” early on in the set made it clear that Simpson thinks, and thinks A LOT, about not just what his music means, but the tradition from whence it sprang.