Jan 16, 2017

Notes Concerning Sturgill Simpson and Live Network Television


Notes Concerning Sturgill Simpson 
and Live Network Television

By Kevin Broughton

Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean.  – Josey Wales

Nashville, it ain’t like he didn’t warn you. And by summer’s end Sturgill Simpson had had a bellyful. Of you, and your suits, and your black little money-grubbing hearts. One of your favored kingmakers, some Mary named “Bobby Bones,” summed up your indifference to actual art by referring to him as Sturgis Simpson. To be fair, it was Garden & Gun’s cowardly betrayal of a dying Merle Haggard that finally set him off, but his point was unambiguous: I don’t need you. Keep promoting talentless hacks who can’t write songs and need machines to get their voices barely past the level of “vomit-inducing.” I’m done with you.

If country music is to be saved – as opposed to burned down and rebuilt somewhere far away from Music Row’s satanic pit – Sturgill’s blistering performance on Saturday Night Live will be seen as the turning point. 





Most folks who’ve worn out A Sailor’s Guide to Earth probably anticipated the songs he’d pick to introduce himself to the nation on such a prestigious platform.  December’s pleasant surprise of two Grammy nominations had millions asking, “Who is Sturgill (as opposed to Sturgis) Simpson?”

“Keep it Between the Lines” was a perfect how-do-you-do. On a concept album – in the form of a love letter to his newborn son – full of intensity, it’s a cut featuring wry advice that induces smiles. Pause the DVR quickly enough and you’ll see the hint of a smile from the man himself; but overall it was a warmup.

The real heat came with “Call to Arms.” Fitting, as Simpson used it as the show-closer throughout his recent tour. And for close to five minutes, the SNL stage positively burned. The band started fast. And the tune only built in intensity by the moment – by the measure, really – in a way you couldn’t have imagined and still might not believe after re-watching several times. Chances are you’re still shaking your head. If anyone’s seen a more hair-raising musical experience on live television, speak up.

It ended with a power-slammed guitar, to match an upturned organ stage right. Was there a semblance of a grin? Look closely:


 Nope.

That face? It’s saying, “Get some. Who’s next?”

And Nashville, he’s looking at you. You brought this on yourself, Music Row.  Maybe you’ll keep promoting a 40-year-old in painted-on jeans who thrusts his junk on stage and sings about finger banging drunk girls in his truck. Or tatted-up white trash clowns that duet with their Backstreet Boyfriends. But only for a short while.

Because Sturgill Simpson judged you on August 29, 2016, and you were found wanting: Guilty of crimes against art, integrity, and musical humanity. There will be no phone call from the governor with a last minute reprieve. Your death will be fittingly slow, because on January 14, 2017, judge became executioner at 30 Rockefeller Center and with two songs, started the gradual drip of a fatal drug cocktail.

Twenty years ago Todd Snider famously quipped – and you can find it on the occasional T-shirt – “In a perfect world, Steve Earle would run Nashville.”

In a couple years, Sturgill Simpson will.

23 comments:

  1. I cannot express how much I fucking love this glorious piece of music journalism. And Sturgill fucking Simpson!!!!

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  2. Yeah, I love sturgill, but your overselling it. It was completely rehearsed and contrived. I have seen a hundred better performances just in the last year. Turnpike Troubadours to name one, and without a single stage move.

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    1. Jacob I cannot help but agree with you. I enjoy Sturgill a lot but he almost feels like the token selection from Nashville, like Chris Stapleton last year. Who is also spectacular. The Turnpike Troubadours are without a doubt the best live act I have seen and it is with no gimmicks or shenanigans on stage.

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    2. What was the "gimmick?"

      And I'd encourage you to look at other vids of his show-closer throughout the last tour. Maybe not AS intense, but what you saw was pure authenticity.

      Then maybe check yourself for a pulse.

      And head trauma. You may be dead.

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    3. Leon Bridges, "River" 12/05/15 was by far a more deeply moving, spiritual,and yes, "Hair raising" experience on that very stage. Far from histrionics and hype. Volume does not equal intensity and excess is no equal to excellence. I enjoyed Sturgill Simpson's performance and found him to be a good after show exploration. Nashville is a company town that essentially has a production line mentality of predictable results and "star worship". It's obvious Mr. Simpson would need to seek his fortune elsewhere.

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    4. I am a touring musician. I do this for a living. I promise you, nothing about that performance was contrived. That was pure, raw, unadulterated emotion emanating from every single musician on that stage. Those moments are rare and thrilling.

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  3. Oh Jacob, you silly cunt.

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  4. Or, Jacob, maybe he was unloading some pent-up frustrations. Nashville "pretends he doesn't exist."

    Context matters.

    Thanks for reading.

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  5. Well written and well said. Love it.

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  6. Excellent article. Got to see him live at a small venue summer of 2015. Got to meet him too. We weren't leaving without an autograph because we knew he'd explode. He loves the music and is a man of few words. He speaks through his music and conveys a necessary message. In the meantime he puts On a hell of a show because he feels the music, doesn't just sing it. Glad we get the pleasure of enjoying his talents.

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  7. Yeah but didn't he curb himself a little by trimming off the ending lyrics to Call to Arms? Not a huge fan, but I was digging his keyboard player on the second song and his bass player on the first. Horns were pretty solid throughout. Went to read the lyrics and noticed he clipped some off. Was wondering if that was to make the song more TV friendly? And if true, what does that mean?

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    1. Yes to both. Network TV doesn't like F-bombs on live television, and there's a very tight, limited time window. No wiggle room on either.

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    2. A pet peeve of mine....why should you (we) have to go somewhere to 'read the lyrics'? I couldn't understand a word that came out of his mouth! Or is that by design?

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    3. That just seems to be his thing, live with a full band. Doesn't look like it's going to change. He's much more understandable on the albums, and I saw him live in a (mostly) acoustic show and he was very clear.

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  8. First off, I love Sturgill's music and his attitude, but since when is he any kind of country? He has said himself in many,many interviews that he made one country album (High Top Mountain) and "I did it and now I'm done with that". Why are people calling him country when he has flat out said he's not? Why are people trying to put him, or any, musician into a neat little box with a fucking label? You can't listen to his albums back to back to back and say they are the same, they are chapters. Dude makes killer fucking music, and that is the only label anyone can or should put it it.

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    1. i think he drifts in to and out of many genres, he's his own animal, but make no mistake, when he pours on the Waylon Jennings, its as real as any outlaw country. but he is rock, blues, country, rockabilly, the dude is flat out the best artist to come a long in quite some time.

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  9. Until this last week's SNL I did not know who Sturgill Simpson was. I still get goosebumps just thinking about that badassary. I don't even like country. Is this country? I'm hearing the blues, a little country, and some jazz horns. This show was amazing, and this review is absolutely beautiful.

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    1. He started out in a punk country band. When he went solo, his first release was pure country. His second was psychedelic country. You saw where he's gone with his third album. He's whatever he wants to be and I love it.

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  10. MoJoX...google In Bloom, he covered it

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  11. Y E S . . . ! ! !

    and next....

    https://youtu.be/WTw_gCSjfyQ?t=7s

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  12. Hey Trashville, "That's country my ass, who do you think we is?"

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