Sturgill Simpson — ‘The Face of Country Music Today’ — Wowed Boston
I was so excited to finally see Sturgill Simpson at his sold-out show at The Paradise this weekend. Last time he was in Boston — also playing to a sold-out crowd — I was in his home town of Nashville.
Simpson was nominated for a Grammy this year, but perhaps more importantly, his 2014 album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, deservedly appeared on many reviewers’ top ten lists of 2014.
The show started a bit slowly, as Simpson and the rest of his band were powering through their bouts with the flu. It also took the audience a little while to warm up from the frigid temperature outside. Once everyone warmed up, however, his talent became impossible to miss. His songwriting is fantastic, his voice deep and pure, and he’s assembled a great band — Laur Joamets on electric and slide guitars, Kevin Black on bass guitar, and Miles Miller on drums, percussion, and backing vocals.
Joamets is a pretty incredible guitarist. My friend commented that he’s right up there with Albert Lee as a picker. I’ve never seen Lee perform, but he’s got to be amazing if she compared him to Joamets (or rather compared Joamets to him). Simpson’s style is frequently referred to as neotraditional country, and it is for that reason that he is the new face of country music. People who say they do not like country music should give him a listen; he could change your mind.
I did not know that he also plays bluegrass, although I might have figured that out had I known that he hails from Kentucky. The band played a few bluegrass numbers in a slightly less-than-traditional manner, and the audience loved them.
For the encore, he did an Osborne Brothers cover and threw in a little T Rex for something completely different. It worked.
Despite being sick and feeling that the sound mix was not good (it sounded a bit muddy to us too), they played a full show and never let us know how badly they all were feeling. Apparently, the following night, they played but were struggling, and the next night’s show has been postponed because of illness. I hope they rest up so they can regale us with their amazing music for many years to come.
Opening the show was Anderson East, a young singer-songwriter who is releasing his debut album, Cotton Field Heart, later this year. I had a chance to listen to the album and I love it. His style is similar to Simpson’s, making him a good opener for this tour.
The crowd — at least the part of the crowd near us — was uninterested in hearing a solo acoustic guitarist, which was their loss. I look forward to having an opportunity to see him again, possibly with a band when he returns to Boston next month.
I am glad I braved the cold to see this show. (Being honest, I never thought about not going to see it). I only wish the band had been healthy and that the lighting had been better for photography. I’m already excited to see Sturgill at the Newport Folk Festival this July.