Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#886 in the Series) is Sturgill Simpson, High Top Mountain
High Top Mountain, the impressive new album by Country Singer Sturgill Simpson, is the best Outlaw Country throwback album released in years, and would have fit right in with Willie’s Red Headed Stranger, Waylon’s Dreaming My Dreams, and the Mighty Merle Classic, Back to the Barrooms. This guy is that old school, that true, and that damn good.
The opening track “Life Ain’t Fair and the World is Mean” sets the template for 12 tracks of superb playing and true-life story lines, with Sturgill himself telling you what he thinks of all of the outlaw hoopla that is starting to envelop and mostly overtake his career, “The most outlaw thing that I’ve ever done is give a girl a ring, life ain’t fair and the world is mean.”
All roads on this album seem to flow back to Waylon Jennings, with Simpson vocally sounding like a cross between Jennings and Jamey Johnson, with a touch of the rascal thrown in with some Hank Williams Jr. phrasing along the way. Unlike many of the albums released in the immediate wake of the seminal Outlaw Country album, Honky Tonk Heroes, there is not a weak throw-in, sell-out apple in this barrel. Every song on the record was written by Sturgill himself, unlike the hits on most of Waylon’s records, and Sturgill sings every tune like the devil is on his tail and it is the last song he will ever sing.
Whether he is tearing up the barroom tear-jerker on “Sitting Here Without You,” paying tribute to his members of his family like he does on “Hero,” or lovingly representing his people and their way of life with the poignant and autobiographical “Old King Coal,” where he accurately laments that he will be one of the few members of his family not to die from black lung disease, Sturgill Simpson puts his heart and his influences on his heavily tattooed sleeve with each breath and every chord.
Growing up in hillbilly country, the album is named after a cemetery in Kentucky where many members of his family are buried, Sturgill gave up his day job working on the railroad to embark on his music career, and High Top Mountain is the culmination of all of his dreams.
It has taken over 30 years, with a lot of really bad Country Music under the Garth Brooks bridge for the listening public to catch on to the brilliance of Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and the rest of those Country Music outlaws from the 70’s. Heck, even Johnny Cash was late to the present day popularity party, selling more albums in the last 10 years than he did his entire career, and it may take this present day troubadour a few more years to break through the glossy corporate lame-ass bubble that is today’s country music.
Far from a clone, this brilliant debut release from an artist that deserves a lot more recognition than he will likely and regrettably get, is one of the best Country albums to be released in the last ten years. So Set fire to your Florida Georgia Line CD’s, run over your Garth Brooks records, and send your Toby Keith albums to one of those third world countries that think the Buffalo Bills are three time Super Bowl champions.
And Waylon, in answer to the question that you raised in 1995 on the second track of Waylon Forever, this outlaw sh*t has not gotten out of hand. There is just a new sheriff in town, and his name is Sturgill Simpson.
– Walt Falconer, Houston Texas, USA
- .Life Aint Fair and the World is Mean 2:06
- 2.Railroad of Sin 2:04
- 3.Water in a Well 3:18
- 4.Sitting Here Without You 2:10
- 5.The Storm 4:02
- 6.You Can Have The Crown 2:50
- 7.Time After All 2:37
- 8.Hero 4:02
- 9.Some Days 3:30
- 10.Old King Coal 3:07
- 11.Poor Rambler 3:45
- 12.I’d Have to be Crazy 4:02