Posted in music | pictures on July 16, 2014

photos by Chris La Putt and P Squared Photography; words by Chris La Putt

Sturgil Simpsons @ Joe's Pub 7/15/2015 (by Chris); backstage w/ Byrne
Sturgill Simpson
Sturgill Simpson

While listening to Sturgill Simpson sing about Buddha, turtles, and DMT at the first of his first two sold-out shows at Joe's pub last night, I was reminded of a song by another Texas country band -- Eleven Hundred Springs -- called "Long haired hippies freaks." Looking at Sturgill's new album, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, that description is not far off. Yet, this is what the outlaw country of Billie Joe Shaver, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson eschewed in their songs. Sturgill's album is not the typical one you hear coming out of Nashville these days, and he makes no qualms about that. He hasn't gotten praise from that music scene but rather from the likes of Daytrotter, NPR, Fader, and even Rolling Stone (though Joseph Hudak was once managing editor Country Weekly magazine). Even the ubiquitous New Yorker, David Byrne, is a fan and was seen tapping his foot at Joe's Pub after meeting with Sturgill at his show. Sturgill said, "I almost pooped myself" (or something to that effect) when he saw the onetime Talking Heads singer backstage.

Yet, his songs transcend the generic outlaw country themes, particularly "Just Let Go" in which he croons out about how he's going to "transmigrate" to some otherworldy destination that's inexplicably beautiful. Maybe he was high on ayahuasca in the backwoods of New Mexico while writing this or maybe he's just writing what comes from his heart -- like on his song about his grandfather, "Hero," from his first full length album High Top Mountain that he released last year. Who the hell knows, but he just finished three sold-out NYC shows, topped off with a Letterman performance. (Video of that below.) Not bad in a city that has no country radio station.

His four-piece band sounded impressive playing above the rumblings of the downtown 6 Train, particularly Laur Joamets whose electric guitar prowess provided a tight loop that pulled the band together and also complements Sturgill's twang. The set alternated between his two albums, from a bluegrassy "Sitting Here Without You" to the whispers of Waylon's ghost reverberating through "Life of Sin" to a cover of Lefty Frizzel's "I Never Go Around Mirrors" which Sturgill totally makes into his own.

So is Sturgill Simpson a country saviour? I like his songs but it's too early to tell. The Nashville scene that has scorned him in the past is now clamoring to be a part of this outlaw wonder. No matter what, I hope he still keeps on playing.

Check out photos from both Joe's Pub sets (including ones of early show openers the DuPont Brothers), the setlist and Letterman video, below...

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Sturgill Simpson: Life of Sin

DuPont Brothers

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Late show by P Squared

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SETLIST: Sturgil Simpson @ Joe's Pub 7/15/2014 (Early Set)
King Turd
Somedays
Sitting here
Water
Long White Line
Poor Rambler
Voices
Life of Sin
Livin' the Dream
Turtles
Railroad Rain

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Comments (13)

love him...but man that jam looked like a snooze!

Posted by public school whitey | July 16, 2014 3:24 PM

David Byrne would show up at the opening of an envelope

Posted by Anonymous | July 16, 2014 3:38 PM

Listen, listen up Mr. President Obama - I have 1 single word for you: THANKS!!!

Posted by Anonymous | July 16, 2014 4:47 PM

That's a damn shiny bald head.

Posted by Anonymous | July 16, 2014 4:50 PM

Really? You said poop instead of shit? Fuck off

Posted by Fartbox | July 16, 2014 6:03 PM

such a good show!

Posted by Anonymous | July 16, 2014 8:32 PM

Fine songs, disciplined style, deeply expressive, perfectly controlled delivery and extraordinary backup! You're real and full of life and keeping my brain cells alive, boys. What more could this little old lady ask. Well, you don't need to dress up but just wish you'd tuck in them shirttails. No sense looking like 13-yr-olds when you're finally making the scene (an' it's gonna start to look phony soon...) More power to y'all and I pray you'll ride the tigers well. You're on a roll - hope you'll know when to walk away and REST so's you don't burn out. Love this work so very much, listening to it over and over and over, it resonates deeply, will give both albums to everybody in the family for Xmas. Thank you so much, Sturgill, Laur, Kevin and Miles. PLEASE come to MASSMoCA next year! Sincerely, Your 75-yr-old fan (really!) from Massachusetts. (Lived over 30 years in NYC. Saw/heard Dory Previn at Joe's Pub - back in the day, as they say - before you were even BORN. Heh heh. Seriously!) Bye now. Bless you.

Posted by Carolyn Fabricant | July 16, 2014 10:09 PM

I enjoyed the article, but I disagree with the implication that Sturgill Simpson has been rejected by "Nashville" in any way.

For what it's worth, Sturgill has been embraced by many people and institutions in the Nashville community including mainstream country music singers and songwriters, local rock musicians such as the Black Keys, the local independent country and roots music scene, the Grand Ole Opry, WSM radio, local record stores, local journalists and bloggers, the Tennesseean newspaper, the Nashville Scene, the Marty Stuart television show, and even CMT, bizarrely. Mainstream country music star Zac Brown specifically invited him on his current tour, etcetera. And all of that is not to mention the huge fanbase that Mr. Simpson has here.

You're right that Sturgill is not on commercial country radio, which in my opinion is a crying shame, but his most recent album is a relatively lo-fi, self-released independent record. Also, I would venture to guess that most of the indie rock bands written about on this blog aren't played on commercial radio either, unfortunately. Anyway, it's cool to see a guy like David Byrne taking an interest in Sturgill's music. Keep it up, Sturg!

Posted by Nashville Dude | July 16, 2014 10:20 PM

"Country savior"? Seriously? That's the road you wanna travel down? What a puerile tact to take. Just let the man write and sing his fuckin' songs without trying to hoist a crucifix on his shoulders. Yeeesh!

Posted by soysalami | July 16, 2014 10:54 PM

"Yet, this is what the outlaw country of Billie Joe Shaver, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson eschewed in their songs."

.......do you know who Willie Nelson is?

Posted by TomJim | July 17, 2014 1:25 AM

Nash FM 94.7 (da duh da duh) NEW YORK

Posted by Anonymous | July 17, 2014 9:50 AM

How much is this guy's label paying you for these posts? Might as well start posting about Zac Brown or Brad Paisley while you're at it.

Posted by Anonymous | July 17, 2014 10:10 AM

>>"How much is this guy's label paying you for these posts? Might as well start posting about Zac Brown or Brad Paisley while you're at it."<<

Self-released, dipshit. #FAIL

Posted by soysalami | July 17, 2014 10:38 AM

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