An outlaw’s call to arms

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Earlier this year, a 38-year-old country boy heavily influenced by a three-year stint in the Navy, his family’s coal mining roots, and his father’s career as a state cop working undercover narcotics, honored his new son with the release of A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. I had heard Sturgill Simpson’s music a couple of years back, but didn’t fully appreciate him until purchasing his latest work,  which he wrote (except for a haunting cover of Kurt Cobain’s In Bloom), composed, arranged, and produced.

One of the most distinctive aspects of his album is the meshing of outlaw country sensibilities with a rolling rhythm and blues pulse pumped through the tunes by The Dap Kings horns. The album’s standout arrangements and orchestrations gain provocative layering from lyrics that reveal, prod, and inform.  A Call to Arms, one of my favorites from the nine-cut LP, exemplify the quality of Simpson’s work:

Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran
North Korea, tell me where does it end
The bodies keep piling up with everyday
How many more are they gonna send
They send their sons and daughters off to die
for some oil to control the heroin
Son I hope you don’t grow up
Believing that you’ve got to be a puppet to be a man
They’ll cut off your hair and put a patch on your arm
And strip you off your identity
Tell you to keep your mouth shut boy and get in line
To go and meet your maker overseas
Wearing that Kim Jong Il hat while your Grandma’s selling pills stat
Meanwhile I’m wearing my can’t pay my fucking bills hat
Nobody’s looking up to care about a drone
We’re all too busy looking down at our phone
Our ego’s begging for food like a dog from our feed
Refreshing obsessively until our eyes start to bleed
They serve up distractions and we eat them with fries
Until the bombs fall out of our fucking skies
Turn off the TV
Turn off the news
Nothing to see here
They’re serving the blues
Bullshit on my TV
Bullshit on my radio
Hollywood telling me how to be me
The bullshit’s got to go

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