- 28 Aug 17
Hot Press was still recovering from a show the night before as he ambled into Vicar St at about 8 o’clock on Friday night, seeking liquid fortification. A cheer went up from the main room just as the bar was in sight, prompting a deep sigh as a heel was turned and a seat fumbled towards. Never has the promise of an acoustic night been welcomed with such open arms.
It’s only been four years since Sturgill Simpson’s self-released debut album, but thanks to his quite brilliant Metamodern Sounds In Country Music (2014), and the Grammy winning A Sailor’s Guide To Earth (2016), he now finds himself acclaimed as country music’s saviour. It’s a title that he roundly rejects; tonight he’ll put his success down to the “fact” that he’s really a CIA assassin, for how else can you explain an ex-military man becoming an award-winning singer in no time at all? The aforementioned records show an artist intent on escaping any particular pigeonholing; Waylon Jennings crossed with Otis Redding would only begin to describe him.
It’s Simpson’s voice that carries him tonight, a rich baritone that does indeed raise Waylon’s ghost on opener ‘Long White Line’, and again on ‘Time After All’ and ‘Oh Sarah’, but nowhere more so than on his cover of Willie Nelson’s ‘I’d Have To Be Crazy’- a song from the pen of the late Steven Fromholz, once the Poet Laureate of Texas, which beats everything else on LinkedIn, ever. Simpson indulges in several fine covers – Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Martin, Doc Watson - but it is his version of William Bell’s ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’, as featured on Otis Redding’s Otis Blue, that is the most telling, with one foot in Nashville, and the other in Memphis. I very much look forward to the day he brings his full band show to these shores.