Sturgill Simpson has deep country heritage, not to mention a premium country band backing him, but third record A Sailor’s Guide To Earth isn’t quite a straightforward country album. For one thing there is the cover of Nirvana’s In Bloom, but there is also the modern twist to the production, and the brass of The Dap-Kings. On Anti.
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7/10 Penrith Steve Customer review, 28th April 2016
I am generally a fan of Americana and alt. country, at least I was: in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s when there was some genuinely brilliant stuff from The Jayhawks, Whiskeytown, Wilco and Ryan Adams first two albums. Of late, however, I’m finding it boring, like it has outstayed its welcome. It is quite refreshing, therefore, to hear Sturgill Simpson’s latest album “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth”. Whilst the country on here is more country than alt. country ever gets he is standing with one foot in each camp whilst augmenting that with soul and rock.
Opener “Welcome To Earth” starts off as a cinematic country ballad with lush strings before kicking into a punchy Memphis-style soul stomper. You can picture Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and Al Jackson Jr behind him doing their thing. Nashville and Memphis meet again on “Keep It Between The Lines”. “Sea Stories” is country, but has a good dose of Lowell George about it.
He positions Nirvana’s grunge classic “In Bloom” as a classic country ballad that you could imagine being sung on an eponymous ‘60s TV special by George Jones, albeit with a darker edge. I had reservations about this when I heard about it but I think he actually pulls it off.
“Brace For Impact” is okay, one of the rockier tracks – which is fine, but it almost treads too far into mainstream, overproduced rock for my tastes. As the album draws to a close there are two ballads – the soulful “All Around You” and the more traditional country of “Oh Sarah” both are decent. The album closes with the country jam “Call To Arms” which recalls the “hard” country of his first album “High Top Mountain” and rounds the album of nicely.
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