“DD Review: Sturgill Simpson – SOUND & FURY.”

Score: 8/10

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If this new Sturgill Simpson record is any indication, then maybe an autocratic government ain’t a half bad way to run things. That is, I have to admit, while not being adverse to this dude, prior to researching this album I had no idea he even had a “band,” let alone one not only compliant enough to be non-listed in complete ignominy, credited with just “bass,” “keyboards” and “drums,” but also good enough to bash out a record that Simpson himself referred to as “sleazy” and “steamy” [1].

Now, several matters would seem to come to a head here, the most notable of which would be that he’s actually not kidding: this is an album of music with a sort of Black Keys veneer, seeing as Sturgill sounds more like Dan Auerbach than not and some of the “band”’s influences seem the same, but which is bulwarked by such swaggering, funky grooves all throughout, that the listening experience fiercely immerses you. Perhaps most kudos of all should go, other than to Simpson whose vocals always seem genuine and lyrics always understandable, to bassist Chuck Bartels, who does things on that instrument that will have you not believing what you’re hearing, or not believing that it were done without the help of a computer. Indeed, a lot about Simpson’s effort at large as well as this new LP seems anachronistic, a “country” artist who came up as an maker of “indie” records and lauded by NPR, and one whose musical STYLE seems like hilarious joke of containing SKILL rather than just cultural concession.

By country standards, SOUND & FURY is, well, full of sound and fury, but beyond that very bluesy, like The Black Keys, its compressed mix and glossy, synthy surface then positioning things closer to El Camino than to Rubber Factory territory. Also similar to El Camino, Simpson’s singing comes across as natural and not the garish imitation of founding Delta Blues men. Truth be told, SOUND & FURY is “R&B” in the original, rock leaning Blues Brothers sort of way, grounded ebulliently in our current era partially by a political radio sound bite introduction that seems pertinent to this decade, and partially for the fact that nobody else seems to be doing this sort of thing today (hence lending them project a freshness).

The anthemic, honest-boy “Remember to Breathe” and “A Good Look” with its funky multifariousness are a couple of notable standouts on this album. Then comes though “All Said and Done,” an important turn toward balladry full of sonic robustness and watery, polymorphous guitar textures leading to a gorgeous wah-wah pedal solo. Simpson’s vocals assume pretty much the standard heartiness and aching we find on the album in general, but take a haunting turn as, cloaked in such sonic richness by the ever-changing, forceful guitar, they take a haunting turn at the end: “Staring at the pages / Going over the same lines / It’s all been said and done by now / Two or three times”. Whether or not, then, this should materialize as the central “thesis statement” of the album is certainly debatable, since throughout these tracks SOUND & FURY gets by with rigor and style on being what on paper has no right not sounding dated — an energetic, infectious, Midwestern blues/rock record [2].

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[1] wikpedia.org.

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[2] Though Simpson hails from Kentucky, the recording site and key inspiration for this album is listed as Waterford, Michigan, and its corresponding, adjacent city of Detroit.

 

319 thoughts on ““DD Review: Sturgill Simpson – <em>SOUND & FURY</em>.”

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