by Julian Spivey
Every freakin’ time Sturgill Simpson starts to release new music we start to hear the same old thing … “he’s lost his way,” “he’s turned his back on his fans,” “he’s sold out,” “he’s pulled a bait and switch,” etc. etc. etc.
It never fails.
It’s gotten to the point where it feels like some people – often the same people every time – have pre-written comments decrying Simpson’s change in sound ready for the comment sections of sites like Saving Country Music, Farce the Music or what have you. Sometimes these comments are made well before any actual music is released simply based on reports that the singer-songwriter is going in a different direction.
Simpson’s debut album High Top Mountain was released in 2013 and was very traditional sounding country music that had many excited for what appeared to be a throwback artist. Most people who know Simpson these days didn’t have a clue who he was back then. But, many of those that did were a bit bothered when the first release off his sophomore album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music was “Turtles All the Way Down” less than a year later in 2014.
What was this psychedelic stuff and what the fuck does ‘Metamodern’ even mean?
But there was enough traditional sounding stuff like “Long White Line” and “Life of Sin” on the album to not cause too much of an outcry.
Many more people got to know Simpson as a result of the success of Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.
Then two years later we got A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, which featured a horn section, more soulful music and was somewhat of a concept album.
Horns on a country record? What’s going on here!
Then Simpson DID “Saturday Night Live” and was nominated for the overall Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards and took home the trophy for Best Country Albums at the Grammys, despite the rest of the country music industry acting as if he didn’t exist.
And, many more people got to know Simpson as a result of the success of A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.
Recently it was announced that Simpson’s fourth studio album Sound & Fury would be a true rock record, which Simpson called: “a really sleazy, steamy rock ‘n’ roll record” and “definitely my most psychedelic and also my heaviest.” It was also announced that an anime film would accompany the album on Netflix when it’s released on September 27.
And without ever hearing a sound people erupted.
What the fuck is anime?!?
But it shouldn’t come as a shock that Simpson wanted to do a full-on rock album. Anybody who’s seen him perform live over the last few years realizes he’s become something of a guitar hero. And anybody who’s listened to his previous records knows that he’s an artist who likes to play around with differing sounds.
Some artists stick to they’re accustomed to their entire careers and that’s great. Some branch out and try new things – Kacey Musgraves went with a more pop/disco flavor to her most recent album Golden Hour and won the Grammy for Album of the Year. Bruce Springsteen, my personal favorite artist of all-time, recently released a Country & Western meets Orchestral album Western Stars and though it sounds completely different than most of his discography I believe it’s one of the year’s finest releases.
It’s important to remember that even though us purchasing albums and concert tickets is what ultimately allows musicians to have successful careers it’s not what they are making music for – they do it for themselves. Nobody has the right to tell an artist what they should or shouldn’t be doing with their work. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. But, it’s not fair to accuse an artist of selling out or turning his/her back on fans because they decide to go in a direction you don’t want them to go in.
I’ve enjoyed all three of Simpson’s albums. I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy Sound & Fury yet – I’ll be able to tell you that in late September or early October. I hope it’s great like the rest of his releases. But, if I don’t enjoy it, well, I’ll wait for the next Simpson release and see if I feel differently about it. But I will not act as if he’s done something personally against me.