Sturgill Simpson – Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1 Album Review

Sturgill Simpson – Cuttin’ Grass Volume One Album Review: The Kentuckian makes hay and cuts grass in 2020

2020 has been an unexpected year for us all, and none more so than for Sturgill Simpson. As his Sound and Fury tour with Tyler Childers should have been criss-crossing the States at the start of the year, he found himself at home, quarantined outside, testing positive for Covid-19. In a further twist, his purely-for-fun ‘Dick Daddy Survival School’ social media videos gained popularity with fans… Eventually leading to him earning a load of money for charity through merch and entering the studio to record an album he promised to fans.

Caught up? Well, you will be once you get your ears around the fruits of his labour. Many country purists lost their minds at 2019’s Sound and Fury, and the ‘it’s not country enough for us’ brigade spat their dummies out en masse. Sturgill’s reaction was, as always, to give critics the finger and carry on. So, having promised to record something for fans, he did what he always does – whatever the f*ck he feels like.

Sturgill Simpson - Cuttin' Grass Vol. 1

In this case, Sturgill decided to gather some of the best bluegrass players in Tennessee and record 20 of his previously written tunes with a full bluegrass accompaniment. The result is a rootsy blast of some of the best music you’ll hear this year. Sturgill explains how his paternal grandfather was a bluegrass nut, but how he wasn’t ready to appreciate it as a kid, this album has given him the chance to rediscover and explore that love. In fact, Simpson recalls his grandfather looking sad that he didn’t connect with the music but saying “One day it’s gonna get in ya, and it’ll never get out.” There’s a bittersweet tinge to this record, a beautiful tribute that can’t be heard by its inspiration. Although you can be sure any bluegrass fan, Sturgill’s grandfather included, would approve.

Let’s remember, Sturgill is a Grammy award winning artist, and despite admitting he doesn’t have too many friends in Music City, he’s been able to call upon the best of the best for this record. The Top Gun of bluegrass musicians. The songs Sturgill writes are so well written that they can be tweaked and twisted into whatever genre or style you want. Tunes like Life Ain’t Fair and the World is Mean and Railroad Sin naturally slip into a bluegrass shuffle like they were born that way. Whereas Turtles all the Way Down, the trippy opener to Metamodern Sounds in Country Music works perfectly, albeit not quite with the same impact as its studio bretherin.

Die hard Sturgill Simpson fans will be pleased to see lesser-heard fan favourites like Just Let Go appear. If I had one criticism, and I use the word lightly, it’s the absence of songs from Sound and Fury, listening to the lyrical content of that album, it’s always felt like country songs recorded as rock songs. Although, given that many outspoken critics pissed off Sturgill by arguing about genre, it seems unlikely he’d back down and give them those songs in that form just yet. But hey, it’s only volume one.

The fact that artists like Simpson and Tyler Childers have spent 2020 making music and honing their craft shows why they’re held in such esteem. This record is a triumph in achieving exactly what Sturgill wanted, he gave his supportive fans the music they craved and explored his and his grandfather’s love of bluegrass at the same time. Sure, there’s no new music here, no fresh songs, but there’s a showcase of some of the finest musicianship on the planet and some seriously good reimaginings of Sturgill’s back catalogue. I defy you to stop your foot tapping.

Track Listing

1. Just Let Go
2. Life Ain’t Fair and the World is Mean
3. A Little Light
4. Life of Sin
5 .Long White Line

6. All Around You
7. All the Pretty Colors
8. Breakers Roar
9. I Don’t Mind
10. I Wonder

11. Living the Dream
12. Old King Coal
13. Railroad of Sin
14. Sitting Here Without You
15. Sometimes Wine

16. The Storm
17. Time After All
18. Turtles All the Way Down
19. Voices
20. Water in a Well

Six Shooter Rating

8 out of 10

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Sturgill Simpson - Cuttin' Grass Vol 1
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