I know you have seen the coverage from NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Nashville Scene and other outlets singing the praise of the new Sturgill Simpson album. I also know that if you’re reading this article, you probably already know whether or not you’re going to buy the record which is very likely going to be named country album of the year by many mainstream outlets. I’m here to tell you, yes it is that good of an album and yes, you should buy it if you are on the fence. Metamodern Sounds In Country Music is destined to be a modern classic, and I’m going to tell you why.
You could hear it in the first single, “Turtles All The Way Down”. This album is different. It takes what made the outlaw movement of the 70′s popular and takes it to another level. In that first song alone, Sturgill covers a range of topics all to just say that none of it really matters, all you need is love. It’s a trippy psychedelic country ride into an album that is all over the place in a span of 35 minutes. You have “Life Of Sin” which is a foot stompin’ honky tonk number, “Voices” which is a ballad to the voices in our head, “The Promise” which is a new wave track from the 80′s movie Napoleon Dynamite turned on it’s head and spun around into one of the best country ballads you’ll hear and there is even “A Little Light Within” which is a straight up country gospel tune.
It is hard to pick out a highlight for an album so good. There are a few tracks that stand out above the others though. I really like the road song “Long White Line” which taps into the popular country music theme of escaping into a big rig and looking for the end of that long white line. I would say my favorite track on the album is the final official track titled “It Ain’t All Flowers”. It takes us back to the psychedelic sound of “Turtles” in a big way. Distorted electric guitar, a nice deep bass line and Sturgill taking his signature crooning to another level make for a trippy seven minute ride to close out the album. I particularly enjoy the effects on the solo about 4 minutes in. But wait, there is more! You get a bonus track titled “Pan Bowl” which is not to be overlooked. It’s a great ballad about reminiscing about days long passed.
I know more about country music than I do philosophy, so I turned to Wikipedia for a quote on metamodernism. The article says: “the 2000s were characterized by the return of typically modern positions that did not forfeit the postmodern mindsets of the 1980s and 1990s. The prefix “meta” here refers not to a reflective stance or repeated rumination, but to Plato’s metaxy, which denotes a movement between opposite poles as well as beyond them.” Knowing that, the title Metamodern Sounds In Country Music fits the album perfectly. Looking back, recent years have been plagued by a modernization of country music that has built off the traditions set in the 80′s and 90′s. This album is reflective of the past with a sound heavily influenced by the outlaw movement of the 70′s. It takes that sound and moves it beyond with new elements mixed in with the old. Is this going to be a new trend in country music? Only time will tell, but for now, we can enjoy one of the best country albums to hit since Hank III dropped a little album called Straight To Hell.
Author’s Note: Only quote Wikipedia in a pinch, and then double check their sources.
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music – Track Listing
1. Turtles All The Way Down
2. Life of Sin
3. Living The Dream
5. Long White Line
6. The Promise
7. A Little Light Within
8. Just Let Go
9. It Ain’t All Flowers
10. Pan Bowl (Bonus Track)