USA, 2020, bluegrass

Sturgill SimpsonCuttin’ Grass Vol. 1: The Butcher Shoppe Sessions

My first reaction to this music (besides the squeal of joy I let loose when I saw Sturgill had released a new album) was “this one’s for the fans”. But strike that. It’s for anyone who’s into timeless bluegrass delivered with as much coal-mine grit as high lonesomeness. But there is an especial joy for those of us who’ve followed Sturgill from the beginning of his career and can thus get excited about hearing the re-worked songs we’ve loved for years. Seven songs from High Top, seven from Metamodern Sounds, only two from Sailor’s Guide, and four little-known tunes from his band Sunday Valley’s 2011 cowpunk/alt-country album, *To the Wind and on to Heaven*. Like any proper handling of such a giant of a traditional genre like bluegrass, you’d better bring your A-game. And it ain’t something you can go alone. Bluegrass is the epitome of ensemble music, for the players are virtuosos, and not one is expendable. Banjo, fiddle, mandolin, upright bass, acoustic guitar–they’ll hail your soul from your body. So many delightful old-timey moments, like the all-male chanted chorus on “Life Ain’t Fair and the World Is Mean”. By the way, y’all catch that? He’s got more kids than when he first recorded that song. One last thing: I’m pretty sure I would’ve wept if Sturgill had left “Old King Coal” off this album. Ah. Who’m I kidding? I wept anyway, but for the opposite reason.

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