Sound — 9
Oh, where to begin in regard to the most important country music album to be released in years. "Metamodern Sounds in Country Music" is traditional country, outlaw country, bluegrass, alternative country, and folk all thrown into a bowl and mashed together smoothly and perfectly. It's essentially an Americana album if we're to label it something concretely, and an encompassing term as such might be more accurate than any simple genre label. The album includes breakneck speeds with excellent guitar licks all over the place, only to slow down a song later and showcase Simpson's fantastic vocals and very interesting acoustic guitar arrangements. Scattered throughout this album are incredible lyrical lines and jaw-dropping arrangements in the sense of how perfectly they fit the song. Perhaps the most notable example of this is Simpson's cover of "Long White Line." The album opener, a fantastic little tune called "Turtles All the Way Down" is a fun shroom trip of a song about drugs and hints of religion among other things. Album highlights include the fantastic cover of "The Promise" along with moving bonus track "Panbowl" and perhaps Simpson's catchiest tune to date, the excellent "Living the Dream." All things considered, "Metamodern Sounds in Country Music" is the collection of influences needed to turn country music back in the right direction, something fans have been clamoring for longer than most of us have been alive.
Lyrics — 9
What I love most about Sturgill Simpson's lyrics is the progressive nature with which he writes. It takes no time to notice that Sturgill's going to stay clear of loyalties to any organized religion, and his openness about drugs is very refreshing and very real. That's not all he writes about, thankfully, but those two topics are something he does with ease compared to the current mainstream trend of raising eyebrows with an arbitrary mention of weed - something that's gone stale over the last couple of years. As far as vocals are concerned, Simpson has a unmatched snarl that sounds like a combination of Waylon's rougher, faster material, and the sharpness of Merle Haggard. When he isn't searing words into your soul, his softer and slower croon is lulling you into a place from which you'll never want to return. You combine those vocal abilities with Willie Nelson's lyrical prowess and we've got a living legend on our hands.
Overall Impression — 9
I opened the review by calling "Metamodern Sounds in Country Music" the most important country record to be released in quite some time, and considering the devastating state of the mainstream Nashville contingent, it's not hard for general listeners to see why. This album is indicative of what country music has truly evolved into instead of this mishmash of random genres with a banjo layered over the top we hear on the radio these days. This album, which has sold well-over 100,000 copies (unheard of for an independent artist) earned Simpson a record deal with Atlantic. His major label debut is on the way, folks, and it's safe to say the country landscape has never needed something good, something substantial, more than it does right.
Just a quick note for guitar nuts - Simpson has an excellent lead guitarist named Laur Joamets, and if you search through Simpson's older material you'll notice how incredibly talented he is on the ax, too. The leads and solos are more common in his live show, but the album still has plenty of great guitar work that you can allow your ears to feast on. Anyone with the smallest inkling of country fandom in their blood needs this album. This is a piece of musical history that will transcend time.