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Albums of the Year 2019: Sturgill Simpson - Sound & Fury | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2019: Sturgill Simpson - Sound & Fury

Albums of the Year 2019: Sturgill Simpson - Sound & Fury

Endlessly creative singer's fourth album is country, but not as we know it

Where Sturgill's going, he doesn't need roads

Country is as country does, and in 2019 it was busy having a very good year in the UK. The mega-festival C2C continued to pack out arenas, with alumni like Luke Combs and Ashley McBryde selling out their own headline gigs; young upstarts like Colter Wall and Tyler Childers made some noise, hit film Wild Rose saw Jessie Buckley dazzle as an aspiring country singer – and no-nonsense Kentucky native Sturgill Simpson turned the genre on its head with his fourth album, Sound & Fury.

While Simpson sells out arenas in the US, wins Grammys and recently enjoyed a residency at Nashville’s revered Ryman Auditorium, his popularity is a slower-burning flame over here. But that flame is glowing ever brighter – critics love him, and six years after playing the 120-capacity basement venue at London’s Slaughtered Lamb (a gig at which he announced “this one’s for the ladies. Hell, I’m bullshittin’. They’re all for the ladies”), he’s playing to 2,300 at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town.

Now, that rich, Waylon Jennings-esque baritone can be heard on Simpson’s latest offering: a bizarre, compelling gathering-together of country, disco, sleazy funk and distorted honky-tonk blues. Sound & Fury is a thrillingly contrary move on the part of Simpson, a world away from the straighter country of his 2014 solo debut, High Top Mountain. It even comes with an accompanying anime film on Netflix: an album-length compilation of strange, disturbing imagery, from a hazmat-suited skateboarder foraging in a desolate cityscape to a troupe of female bodybuilders dancing in sync in a Mad Max-style barren landscape and a lot of efficiently-bloodied samurai swords.

But Simpson has always had a penchant for a new frontier – his third record, the gorgeous concept album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, featured a flugelhorn and bagpipes, for goodness’ sake – and he's reached another one with Sound & Fury. It’s deeply weird, addictive and wilfully different – and a wonderful reminder that some people just love to push those boundaries.

Two More Essential Albums of 2019
Ghosteen – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Live in London – Mavis Staples

Gig of the Year
Metallica at Twickenham Stadium

Track of the Year
The Barrel – Aldous Harding (from Designer)

Watch the trailer for Sound & Fury

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