Happy Birthday to Sturgill Simpson! The now 43-year-old singer songwriter from Kentucky has been making great music for almost two decades, and continues to carve out his own unique path in the country music scene. As of February 2022, he has released seven albums as a solo artist. His third album, A Sailor's Guide to Earth earned him Best Country Album at the 59th Grammy Awards while also being nominated for Album of the Year. Simpson's overall sound was described by Indiewire as "a mesmerizing and sometimes bewildering mix of traditional country sounds, contemporary philosophy, and psychedelic recording-studio wizardry." As a result, Simpson’s stage persona embodies and projects a perfectly modern example of the “country outlaw” subgenre. So, to celebrate his birthday and his musical influence, we’ve gathered a list of Sturgill Simpson songs we think you should hear.
1. "Long White Line"
This is probably the closest Simpson gets to good ol’ fashioned mainstream country; however, he turns this popular conception on its head by making the song form more personal. Simpson sings about escaping his past, moving forward, and creating a better life for himself. Channeling the outlaw sound established by Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, he busts through the truck song trope and brings the future of country music storytelling with him.
2. "Keep It Between the Lines"
From his third album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Simpson wrote this one for his newborn son. He immortalizes fatherly advice in song, making sure he leaves something behind: “Do as I say, don't do as I've done”.
3. "Mercury In Retrograde"
Simpson explores the downsides of fame in this song, which he wrote with Japanese animator Junpei Mizusaki for the soundtrack of Netflix’s dystopian anime show Sound and Fury. Simpson described it as a "sleazy, steamy rock'n'roll record", a cross between ZZ Top and seventies glam rockers Showaddywaddy. It shows his range as a songwriter. Who would’ve guessed that a country musician would be the perfect fit for an anime score?
4. "Sea Stories"
Simpson pulled inspiration from his time in the U.S.