12 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Though Sturgill Simpson would start pushing hard at the boundaries of country music on his second album, his debut—High Top Mountain—is a solidly roots-conscious slab of hard country reverberating with echoes of classic honky tonk and '70s outlaw country. Yet somehow it never sounds overtly retro. Maybe part of the reason for the freshness of it all is that it feels like Simpson is really singing about himself rather than reeling off a rote collection of old-school country tropes. The opening track, "Life Ain't Fair and the World Is Mean," examines the challenges faced by a real-deal country singer trying to navigate the modern music scene. Simpson's maverick spirit is evident throughout the album, especially when he's casually tossing off expletives on the wry "You Can Have the Crown," ensuring the song will never get within a mile of the radio. But radio play clearly isn't Simpson's target—he's after a more intangible impact, the kind that artists from Merle Haggard to Willie Nelson have made on audiences' souls.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Though Sturgill Simpson would start pushing hard at the boundaries of country music on his second album, his debut—High Top Mountain—is a solidly roots-conscious slab of hard country reverberating with echoes of classic honky tonk and '70s outlaw country. Yet somehow it never sounds overtly retro. Maybe part of the reason for the freshness of it all is that it feels like Simpson is really singing about himself rather than reeling off a rote collection of old-school country tropes. The opening track, "Life Ain't Fair and the World Is Mean," examines the challenges faced by a real-deal country singer trying to navigate the modern music scene. Simpson's maverick spirit is evident throughout the album, especially when he's casually tossing off expletives on the wry "You Can Have the Crown," ensuring the song will never get within a mile of the radio. But radio play clearly isn't Simpson's target—he's after a more intangible impact, the kind that artists from Merle Haggard to Willie Nelson have made on audiences' souls.

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About Sturgill Simpson

Formerly the leader of Sunday Valley, an energetic roots outfit that made some waves in the early years of the new millennium, Sturgill Simpson gained greater renown as a solo artist, initially thanks to his muscular 2013 solo debut High Top Mountain. An outlaw country record in form and feel -- its debt to Waylon Jennings clear and unashamed -- High Top Mountain became a word-of-mouth hit in 2013, thereby establishing Simpson's country credentials and opening the door to a wider future.

A native of Jackson, Kentucky raised near Lexington, Simpson has deep southern roots, but he moved out west once he reached his late teens. In 2004, he formed Sunday Valley, receiving a big break when they played Portland, Oregon's Pickathon Festival in 2011. Sturgill went solo in 2012, beginning work on the album that became High Top Mountain, which appeared the following year. After extensive touring, Simpson settled down in studio to concentrate on his next recording. He experimented with stretching the boundaries of his chosen genre, digging deep into topics like physics and evolution, as evidenced by his pre-release single "Turtles (All the Way Down)." The Dave Cobb-produced album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, appeared in May of 2014 and peaked in the Top Ten on all of the country charts. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for best country album. Simpson won Best Emerging Artist at that year's Americana Music Awards, and in 2015 was named Artist of the Year by the same foundation.

In March of 2016, he released "Brace for Impact (Live a Little)," as the first single from the full-length A Sailor's Guide to Earth. The self-produced album was released in April and featured a guest appearance from the Dap-Kings. It earned rave reviews plus a surprise nomination for Grammy's Album of the Year. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

  • ORIGIN
    Jackson, KY
  • BORN
    Jun 8, 1978

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