3. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
While it can be argued quite easily the Grammys aren’t relevant, it it nice to see an relatively unknown artist included in the popularity contest. Sturgill’s surprise Album of the Year nomination caps a year of him flat out telling Nashville they have been releasing drivel for the past two decades and garnering accolades from those very people he criticized. A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is his advice-riddled love letter to his new born son and it’s a whopper of humor, genre-blending, and meditation on being a new father. He has a beautiful, traditional country voice: deep and pleasant as it rides waves of interesting musical arrangements. “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)” starts out a traditional country song, brings in some pretty strings and, then — half way through the song — breaks out the amazing Dap-Kings R&B horn section. He even uses washes of electric keyboards throughout. It works beautifully. The best songs are full of humor (“Keep It Between the Lines”) or go against the traditional country music topics (“Call to Arms”), but the writing is strong here. He even throws a Nirvana cover (“In Bloom”) smack dab in the middle. It’s a low-key affair which has its meaning changed by the album’s subject matter. The line “He’s the one who likes/ All our pretty songs/And he likes to sing along…” could easily be a hopeful sentiment that his first born will enjoy his daddy’s work. “A Sailor’s Guide…” won’t win the album Grammy, but the attention is enough and hopefully will bring many more listeners to this amazing work.
Favorite songs: “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog),” “Keep It Between the Lines,” “Sea Stories,” “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)”