Sturgill Simpson surprise releases second bluegrass album
In October, Sturgill Simpson surprise-released a double album of bluegrass versions of his songs, Cuttin' Grass Vol 1 - The Butcher Shoppe Sessions. He's now followed that with a second surprise release, Cuttin' Grass Vol 2 - The Cowboy Arms Sessions. Like the first volume, it's bluegrass versions of his songs recorded with a group of ace session players, The Hillbilly Avengers, this time pulling mainly on his 2016 album A Sailor's Guide to Earth, plus three songs from his 2013 debut High Top Mountain, "Jesus Boogie" from his old band Sunday Valley, and two previously unreleased tracks.
One of the unreleased tracks, "Hobo Cartoon," was co-written by the late Merle Haggard. "We got to know each other in the last two years of his life," Sturgill says. "He would call a lot, we’d talk on the phone. When he got sick, he was still writing songs, even in his hospital bed. This just popped up one day in the in box—he sent me these lyrics in a text and he said ‘From one railroad man to another.’ After four or five years, it was time to cowboy up and give this thing a go. So I finished writing the song, and it just felt weird to imagine it with some big eight-piece band. Merle loved bluegrass, so it felt like a proper homage, really exposed and stripped down to the root of something. Maybe I’ll recut it with a hard country band one day, but it just seemed like a beautiful way to end this chapter.”
"It’s hard to deny that this is a much more personal record," Sturgill continued about Vol 2. "I was thinking about my kids, my grandfather, my wife." He went on:
On Volume 2, we recorded everything I was too afraid to do on Volume 1. For that one, everything was more conventional bluegrass, sort of straight down the middle. But as a benefit of the musicians all getting to know each other and feeling more comfortable, we took more chances and felt more like a band. That gave me the confidence to come in with songs that I was a little more worried how they would translate to bluegrass — but weirdly, it just underscored that, in the end, I guess I’m just a bluegrass songwriter.
Stream Cuttin' Grass Vol 2 - The Cowboy Arms Sessions below.
Meanwhile, Sturgill also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Thursday night (12/10), where he performed "All the Pretty Colors" from Nashville's Station Inn with The Hillbilly Avengers. Watch that below, as well.