Review: Sturgill Simpson defies categorization with 'Sailor'

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Sturgill Simpson, "A Sailor's Guide to Earth" (Atlantic Records)

Sturgill Simpson defies categorization, and exceeds expectations, with "A Sailor's Guide to Earth," an exploration of life's journey inspired by the birth of his first child.

Simpson funks up his country twang with a rousing horn section while keeping a rocking and rollicking edge underneath his probing lyrics.

Heck, he even throws in bagpipes, a cello and violin and yet another killer cover — this time of Nirvana's "In Bloom." Simpson, like all great interpreters, makes the Kurt Cobain song sound like his own, and it oddly fits in perfectly with the mood and theme of "A Sailor's Guide."

The record's final tune, "Call to Arms," is just what it sounds like. Simpson decries what he's hearing on TV and radio, and with the horns and guitars growling behind him, urgently declares, "The bull----'s got to go!"

Rock, country, Americana. Whatever. "A Sailor's Guide to Earth" is a thrill. This compact 39 minutes of pure joy has got the kind of energy that just makes you instinctively lean forward just to try and keep up.