A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
written by Vaughn Oliver
Honestly, and this is me being completely straight up, I only listened to this album in anticipation of the Nirvana “In Bloom” cover. And in a twist of irony, that ended up being my least enjoyed track on this album. Although still quite enjoyable.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
Sturgill Simpson is not a name I could have placed a week ago but, after hearing A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, it’s become a name I want to be more familiar with. It is a name that many associate with country and roots rock, but to hear the accompaniment of the strings and sounds on these songs make me want to compare it more with orchestra country. Is that a thing? Can we make that a thing if it’s not? Thanks.
A Sailor’s Guide To Earth was written to celebrate the birth of Simpson’s son, with birth, father-son dynamics, and life in general, as overarching themes. Sturgill self-funded and self-released his first album and mixed his second, but his newest release displays his talents as a producer. While Dave Cobb oversaw production on Simpson’s previous two releases, High Top Mountain and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Sturgill Simpson decided to take the role for himself this time around. And although I feel there are some misplaced moments on this album, as a whole it is a magnificent producer credit for Mr. Simpson.
The level of audacity that is displayed here pays off in nearly every turn, songs breathing, running into one another, undulating sounds weaving in and out so fluidly. The jumping dance beats of tracks like “Call To Arms” contrast excellently with the slower ones such as “Oh Sarah”. It’s not something I expected from a country artist. This is much more. Tracks of incredible note include “Welcome To Earth (Pollywog),” “Keep It Between The Lines,” and the first single from the album, “Brace For Impact (Live A Little).” The interesting thing about these is the fact that they are some of the longest on the album. They definitely have a lot to offer, and are not simply three section songs that repeat till the bitter end. They provide the listener with a beautiful journey from inception to completion, moving across great distances at high speed. The use of organs, subtle guitar licks, and complimentary noises, ranging from smooth to fuzzy, give this album a feeling of originality that is not easily forgotten.
I would urge those who say they don’t like country to give this release a try, unless they truly cannot get past a very well controlled country voice. Truthfully that will be the most difficult hurdle for some. I suppose that style of vocal is no longer a very popular one, outside of pop/dance or party-country, which is a shame. If more people would give it a chance, I feel as though they could find themselves lost in a strong, smooth, vocal melody. One that doesn’t demand your attention, but earns it.
A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is a release that doesn’t demand your attention, but earns it.
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written by Vaughn Oliver