Kentucky singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson has found himself moving further away from the traditional alt-country template with each album, incorporating psychedelic flourishes into his sound but maintaining a true, traditional country voice. On his major label debut he’s untethered from all constraints and embraced his inner Elvis on this extraordinary album, which has as much to do with classic Stax soul (The Dap-Kings make an appearance) as Merle Haggard-style storytelling.
Intended as a series of message-songs to his young son, while also taking inspiration from his own grandfather’s war-time letters, the album is a defiant, state-of-the-nation address that boldly takes aim at America’s war-mongering and neglect for the poor at home. He even pulls off an audacious cover of Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’, that songs meditation on bravado and gun culture being a perfect fit. Nathaniel Rateliff’s blistering country soul is an obvious comparison but Simpson has navigated his own route to a similar musical plateau.