Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
Country | R&B
These days country music is often divided between the traditionalists who cling to old ideals and refuse to progress the genre, and bro-country which thrives on sexism and clichés about booze and trucks. Sturgill Simpson has blazed his own trail and given his peers something to aspire to. Musically he has mixed in some old school rhythm and blues, blending a brass section with the slide guitar to provide the more upbeat numbers with an infectious energy. Lyrically much of the album acts as a letter to his young son, offering some important life advice. It can be best summed up with the line from ‘Keep It Between The Lines’: “Do as I say, don’t do as I’ve done/It don’t have to be like father, like son”. His advice includes don’t join the navy (on ‘Sea Stories’), don’t trust the government (on the blistering ‘Call To Arms’) and to just generally make the most of life and not fear the end (on ‘Brace For Impact (Live A Little)’).
Not all of the album follows this theme, ‘Oh Sarah’ is a stunning love letter to his wife saying that she’s the one thing that keeps him going when the rest of the world is falling apart. One of the most surprising moments of the album is Simpson’s incredible cover of Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’. Normally I would say that Kurt Cobain is untouchable but he really makes the song his own. Sailor’s Guide feels immensely personal and heartfelt, which gives the music so much more power over the audience. It’s a short album that’s free of filler and feels like a big grand statement. I cannot sing it’s praises enough, even down to the vivid and compelling artwork of a ship on a raging sea. Sturgill Simpson has made country cool and has earned a place as one of the most important voices of the genre.