Album of the Week: Sturgill Simpson, 'A Sailor's Guide to Earth'

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Sturgill Simpson, 'A Sailor's Guide to Earth'
Sturgill Simpson, 'A Sailor's Guide to Earth' (Atlantic Records)

Sturgill Simpson's newest album, A Sailor's Guide to Earth, was largely inspired by the birth of his son. These lyrical themes are woven together with nautical imagery to create a record that engages the listener's emotions, presents new challenges, and is ultimately rewarding.

Large portions of the record present a voyage at sea as Simpson's extended metaphor for making one's way through life. Notably, "Sea Stories" lists a long line of foreign ports of call, inspired by Simpson's own experiences in the U.S. Navy. "Breakers Roar" and "All Around You" also make explicit reference to the oceans. Simpson compares his own son to a pollywog in the opening track, and returns to the analogy later on "Sea Stories" in reference to his own experiences as a bewildered 19-year-old sailor in Thailand. Simpson also issues life lessons in "Keep It Between the Lines," offers an ode to his partner in "Oh Sarah," and in closer "Call to Arms," Simpson indicts both the U.S. military and our own social media culture.

A Sailor's Guide to Earth can be broken down into individual pieces for analysis and/or radio play, but it works best as a cohesive album. Simpson, working as his own producer, does a fantastic job of making the entire record flow together as a 39-minute piece, punctuated by stupendous transitions between songs that make will make you appreciate the art of album sequencing even more.

A Sailor's Guide to Earth is easily one of the strongest releases of 2016, and it further establishes Sturgill Simpson as one of popular music's preeminent composers, storytellers and visionaries.

Audience ratings for this album


Among The Current's listeners who submitted a rating for this album, 100 percent gave the album 5 out of 5 stars. Poll closed at 1 p.m. on Friday, June 3.

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