Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
High Top Mountain Records
Don’t let the Metamodern in Metamodern Sounds in Country Music scare you – or mislead you – you should be a country music fan, or at least know what country music is to want to dive in here. For this is a set of country songs; dressed as country-music too – nothing too clever about the arrangements, nothing too subversive in that title. Though as you dive deeper into these songs – and they get pretty deep (It Ain’t All Flowers, the closer, is extraordinary) – you’ll hear the sounds of Willie and Waylon and their outlaw spirit but you’ll also hear songs that have been shaped by reading Richard Brautigan and Tom Robbins, for that matter Carl Sagan and Christopher Hitchens.
Sturgill is one smart cookie – and his wisest move on this follow-up to that cracking-good debut is to hand over his songs to his shit-hot band. Here you’ll hear sit-inside-the-groove drumming inspired, surely, by the great Larrie Londin. And not-a-note-out-of-place all present and accounted for, totally correct guitar from whip smart, hip-shooting Laur Joamets. Simpson’s voice – that spot-on country twang and burr – is a huge part of the success of this sound. And then it’s his little twists. Voices so cleverly plays into the tropes of country music – “There’s a voice I can hear sometimes/out here on the mountain” before hitting you with “I hear voices all around me in society’s depression/Over and over they all recite their first impression/The rivers are all crying but the ocean cannot speak/Until her waters crash into uncharted shores so dark and bleak”. When he later lines up, “A picture’s worth a thousand words/But a word ain’t worth a dime” he’s biting down hard on the cliché, creating a whole new impression.
The clever twists are all the way through Metamodern Sounds – the cleverest twist being the way it’s all served up as straight country. And it is. This is sister-fucking-good redneck revelry – or at least someone might think so. But what about The Promise? It’s a vacuous pop song from the eighties. Not now. Not since Sturgill Simpson has it hog-tied. Here we’ve got a backing band straight out of Elvis-in-Vegas, the intro almost hinting at In The Ghetto. And then Sturgill delivers those motivational-poster lyrics in just the right way. It’s Dwight Yoakam-good. It’s as exciting as when Lyle Lovett first burst on the scene. It’s a case – this song, this cover – for When In Rome just handing the song over. Saying “it’s yours now, you own it”. And own it Sturgill does. He owns everything on Metamodern Sounds In Country Music.
If you still don’t have an ear for anything remotely country then this won’t turn you. Then again, I’d like to believe that the power in this is such that it could. It might. Oh boy, how there’s so much ‘might’ in this music. Immaculate. Astonishing. And just some really great writing and performances.