A former Navy recruit who spent his late teens at sea, Sturgill Simpson steers his own ship with the upcoming A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, a self-produced album due April 15th that finds him fronting the band and manning the soundboard. He still tips his hat to his influences too, working a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” into a tracklist that stretches his sound far beyond the psychedelic country of 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.
Simpson was halfway through high school when Kurt Cobain — whose songs of struggle and self-doubt made him the reluctant spokesperson for an entire generation of misfits and melancholics — committed suicide in 1994. His music left a lasting impression on Simpson, a Kentucky kid whose own record collection transcended his Bible Belt upbringing.
Released two decades later, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth shows off the full range of Simpson’s tastes, mixing his countrified bark with Motown horns, Sly Stone-worthy funk, Walt Disney strings and Seventies classic rock. First single “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)” is funky mix of electric piano and organ. The album also takes a unique approach to “In Bloom,” working blasts of brass and swooning pedal steel into a song originally built on peals of distorted guitar. Simpson brought a similarly unique approach to his 2014 cover of When in Rome’s “The Promise,” on Metamodern.