One search for the definition of metamodernism will yield the following from Wikipedia: “Metamodernism is a set of developments in philosophy, aesthetics and culture, which are emerging from and reacting to postmodernism. One definition characterizes metamodernism as mediations between aspects of both modernism and postmodernism.”
If that’s the case, then “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” qualifies, creating new, unique music with the help of 20th century influences in both music and literature.
“Introducing ‘Metamodern Sounds in Country Music’,” is Sturgill Simpson’s grandfather, Dood Fraley. He kicks off Simpson’s latest album, leading into the first song — the controversial “Turtles All the Way Down.”
The song has taken on a life of its own, going viral due to its lyrics, which many find confusing. Simpson was even invited to perform the song at a college commencement.
Certainly with lines like, “There’s a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there beyond this plane, where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain,” one could be left slightly puzzled until hearing Simpson speak about the song himself.
According to Simpson, the song was inspired by the story of a scientist arguing with an old woman over the Earth and the sun. The scientist talked about the Earth orbiting around the sun, and the woman argued that the Earth was held on the back of a giant turtle. After the scientist tried to challenge the woman’s theory, by asking what held the turtle up, the woman simply said, “Very clever, but it’s turtles all the way down.”
Simply put, Simpson says, “For anybody to say this is the truth…nobody is going to know until you die.”
This song also introduces the listener to the psychedelic theme in the record. Several songs on the record follow in this pattern.
“Life of Sin” follows, with an honest-to-God country beat, similar to that of Waylon Jennings’ music. Quickly, listeners will realize that Simpson’s vocals and acoustic guitar drive the sound.
Simpson’s band shines just as much as he does in these recordings, with each member adding crucial elements to each song. Respected producer Dave Cobb recorded Simpson and the band live, making the record that much more authentic. The sound is raw but real.
By the third track, “Living the Dream,” Simpson’s talents as a songwriter are made obvious. The chorus says it all: “Ain’t no point getting out of bed if you ain’t living the dream. It’s like making a big old pot of coffee when you ain’t got no cream.”
Simpson’s Waylon influence comes through strong with “Voices.” Again, the lyrics make the song what it is. “A picture’s worth a thousand words, but a word ain’t worth a dime.”
“A Little Light” is one of the most enjoyable songs on the record, with an addicting groove and lyrics that are deep, yet simple enough to relay to the common man, which has, historically, been the point of country music.
“Just Let Go” begins the journey through the other side of the album’s psychedelic theme. What starts off as a mind-expanding song turns into a jam that Cheech and Chong would proudly label as “far out, man!” The song bleeds into “It Ain’t All Flowers,” which can only be described as Pink Floyd playing country music.
The album closes with “Panbowl,” which leaves the listener in a mellow mood and perfectly caps off one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time.
“Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” was nominated for “Americana Album of the Year” at this year’s Grammy awards but surprisingly lost to Rosanne Cash. The nomination itself, however, speaks volumes to the fact that Simpson is a truly unique artist who, I predict, will have the chance to make his mark on the music industry very soon.
For more information, visit www.sturgillsimpson.com.