Sturgill Simpson doesn't adhere to what's expected of him. One of last year's breakout country stars, he received several nominations for September's Americana Music Awards, but that didn't stop Simpson and his band from taking the Newport Folk Festival stage to Skrillex's "Ragga Bomb." With his message delivered — he wasn't to be pigeonholed or taken too seriously — dubstep gave way to the Kentuckian's unwashed, existential, devil-may-care outlaw country, which has caught the attention of classic country fans while challenging them at the same time.
Simpson recently signed to a major label and began work on his third studio album alongside clamored-after superproducer Dave Cobb, who also produced Simpson's debut (High Top Mountain) and 2014's stellar Metamodern Sounds In Country Music. Songs from those two records dominated his Saturday-afternoon Newport set, along with a couple of bluegrass covers, performed lovingly if not reverently. The band's high-octane honky-tonk ramble and its frontman's rough-edged snarl of a voice had the audience hollering in delight, particularly when he hit crowd-pleasers like "Life Of Sin" and "Living The Dream." In response, Simpson played the good-natured contrarian: "Yeah, whatever. Sixty years ago, y'all would have booed us off the stage."
LANGUAGE ADVISORY: This recording contains profanity.
Audio: Joshua Rogosin, Suraya Mohamed, Monique Mizrahi. Photography: Adam Kissick. Sturgill Simpson appears courtesy of Atlantic Records.
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