For the past decade or so Music City has fumbled like a mad scientist to piece together sure-fire radio hits from the worst parts of rock and country music , though there have been major financial success, the lifespan of the work is questionable. The musical limbs seem to reject each other. And we’re not talking about rap and country music here (shut it Colt Ford!) It’s country music and rock music. They share the same DNA for tap-dancing jeebus sakes!
These hacks should take a page from South-Eastern Kentucky’s Sunday Valley. The trio’s name ,the title of their debut album (recorded at Shangri-la Productions in Lexington, Ky with producer Duane Lundy) and sizzling cuts like Jesus Boogie might lead you to believe they are a Christan band, and they might very-well be. But they travel the road straddling the spiritual and the secular blazed by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Ralph Stanley, Johnny Cash and Elvis. The borderlands of gospel, country and country music become a blur out the window of a pedal-to-the-metal 18-wheeler fueled on whiskey, a electrified Telecaster the holy Pentecost.
Case in point, the souped-up gospel of All The Pretty Colors and Sometimes Wine whips up a rightous ruckus as Sturgill Simpson sings with full-on abandon and treats his guitar like it spoke ill of his mama. Gerald Evans’ chugging bass and drummer Edgar Purdom’s tight , heated keep a heated, steady pace. There is also a nice uncredited fiddle and barrel-house piano to round things out.
Never Go To Town Again is Southern rock with the brake off. Simpson sets himself up in a John Henry-like man vs machine duet with his Telecaster. He wails and calls while the machine snarls and snaps with a fury that would make Cerberus whimper.
Things throttle down a bit for some Allman Bros-esque Blue-Eyed soul. Oh, Sarah yearns dreamily toward a road-as-mistress theme and I Wonder and I Don’t Mind are great barroom weepers that burns with longing and regret, the latter tales off like a great, lost Marshall Tucker Band song. Cut The Sails is straight-up acoustic fireside country ballad tracing back country music nautical roots in the spirit of George Strait or John Anderson. These all really showcase the nuance and range of Simpson’s voice.
Simpson reportedly left a steady job with the railroad to pursue his dream of making music like they couldn’t dream of doing anything else. This is music that is as good-hearted as it is raucous, full of piss and vinegar as well as good will, and and as ready to love as itchin’ to fight.