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Album Release Date: April 15, 2016

Here we have a new offering from Sturgill Simpson and an excellent follow up to his sophomore album "Metamodern Sounds in Country Music". Much awaited it delivers. It absolutely delivers. From the artwork and packaging throughout to the mix and tracklist, beginning to end there's something for just about everyone in its contents. Not only is Sturgill a main key in keeping country music pure and to it's roots, he also isn't afraid to step outside of the boundaries of the norm, which we learned in Metamodern Sounds, and are about to really learn here with this one. An artist that is branching out more and more with each release. Upon opening the packaging and revealing the 16th century style sailor's map inside, I'm greeted with a strong ambient build up followed by abrupt silence and soft piano. "Hello my son, welcome to Earth. You may not be my last, but you'll always be my first". It feels of joy, hope, joy, and realization all at once right before kicking into full swing with horn section (done by none other than The Dap Kings), funky bass, and breaking vocals as if a scene from an early 60's swing/jazz club. At this point we're into a full on soul swing out of nowhere. Out of the darkness. We've made it through the first track,"Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)". Whoa. As this track fades out we're greeted with the slow and smooth "old school" country on psychedelics style expect from this man. Steady acoustic guitar strumming away with a steel guitar off in the distance drenched in delay and Sturgill's voice softly singing with an echo as if in a dark room all alone. A track called "Breakers Roar" that brings us to familiar territory when Sturgill's name is mentioned. As we breathe and prepare for the next track here comes a full on classic honkey tonk with horn sections doing dirty work and the bass out for a walk. It comes very close to conjuring the late 70's era of country/honkey tonk, and the saxophone work is very welcome here. The horn section shines a lot on this album, particularly this track. We're still in full swing here but more into a country swing. Onto the next track we're right at kick ass country music. The horn sction has taken a break to let the organ step in and the steel guitar step up. We've got howling vocals and ripping guitar leads executed with slide and grit. Everything is shaping up to be a traditional, white hot country album at this point. And then we head back into the next track... The bass starts with a familiar melody followed by familiar lyrics all done ever so softly. It's Sturgill and the band's rendition of "In Bloom" by Nirvana. This track picks back up with the horn section but retains the band's grit in it's entirety, with laid back steel guitar and verses. This one really opens up in the chorus with more of the empty room sound. Every instrument comes through loud and clear here with cellos giving it a very open sound. Now the band has simmered down to a hot, slow roast going into the next track, the bass pumping out an almost "ZZ Top" vibe and and that gritty lead guitar sliding along with some classic Moog synth by Sturgill himself. Laid back and raw power are key words here. This track is a personal favorite, "Brace for Impact (Live a Little). "All Around You" is a track where the Dap Kings really shine with plenty of rhythm and that distant steel guitar doing it's thing with great showcasing on the horn section. This is where everything melds together perfectly. This track wraps you in a world of classic soul and rhythm with a good bit of the classic 60's country sound. Going into the next track titled "Oh Sarah", we find ourselves in a classic country love ballad beautifully orchestrated with cello, violin, and steel guitar keeping the classic country feel alive up until it fades straight into a psychedelic swell bringing on a chicken pickin' onslaught of southern rock/honky tonk peppered with the same ol' smokin' horn section and this is the final track of the album. Piano solos, slide guitar solos, steel guitar solos, straight forward bass, churchy organ, and even a little bagpipes! This track is cooking and going out with style, and we can still hear that empty room as we have the entire way. A fitting farewell til the next time. This album is a very solid album and will remain a staple years down the road as something legendary and full of talented musicians, of which there are too many to credit in this review. It's a real roller coaster. An old, wooden roller coaster that throws you around quite abruptly. Go out and get it, catch him on tour, and if you haven't already check out his two previous albums. You will not be disappointed in this one.

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