But... a month or two later, Suni came home from running some errands one Sunday to say she had just heard a guy on NPR that sounded “just like Waylon Jennings.” That was worth my attention. To Spotify I went. I first found High Top Mountain, Simpson's 2013 debut record. One listen to "You Can Have the Crown," and I was hooked. How can you not like the line "They call me King Turd up here on Shit Mountain. If you want it you can have the crown"? The lyrics are somewhat tongue in cheek, but what got me immediately was the raw '70s country sound. Yes, his voice sounded like Waylon Jennings, but it was the overall sound that was remarkable to me. There is not a bad song on this album, period. There are reviews of High Top Mountain from Saving Country Music, AllMusic, No Depression, American Songwriter, and this half-ass review from the Boston Globe. (Spoiler alert: Simpson's sophomore album would be much more widely reviewed).
My favorite track on Metamodern Sounds is "Living the Dream." It is just a great country song. But there is so much more than meets the eye on this album. "Turtles all the Way Down" is an interesting song, to say the least. (You can read the lyrics or watch a video of Simpson singing it). It's probably the deepest country song I have ever heard, and it is bound to offend lots of folks here in the Bible Belt. One of the most interesting lines from the song:
Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, DMT. They all change the way I see, but love's the only thing that ever saved my lifeThis is interesting to me, because I recently read CNN Correspondent Amber Lyon's story entitled "How Psychedelics Saved My Life," in which Lyon tells the story of how she overcame her PTSD and anxiety after traveling to Peru, where she experienced ayahuasca therapy. I have learned that the idea that psychedelics have immense healing power is not a new one. For years there has been evidence that government propaganda regarding these substances has done many an enormous disservice. The information is out there. Like this article from 2010. And this article explaining that LSD can cure alcoholism.
I don't think anyone will confuse Simpson's literary inspirations with those of Kenny Chesney's. Simpson digs The Phenomenon of Man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French philosopher and Jesuit priest; the Emerson essay called Nature; and Dr. Rick Strassman's The Spirit Molecule. Like everything, I am going to research this to death, starting with this Thomas King lecture, which apparently inspired Simpson's title.
I just reached a point where the thought of writing and singing any more songs about heartache and drinking made me feel incredibly bored with music. It's just not a headspace I occupy much these days. Nighttime reading about theology, cosmology, and breakthroughs in modern physics and their relationship to a few personal experiences I've had led to most of the songs on the album.In this NPR piece, Simpson explains how he got to Nashville, where he writes from, and his "last great existentialist dilemma."