On a seasonably cool night in Fishtown, the atmosphere was anything but inside The Fillmore, where fans packed like sardines for an up close and personal experience with Sturgill Simpson.
In a sold out set that lasted about an hour and forty minutes, Simpson treated the audience to a heaping helping of tracks from his second album, Metamordern Sounds in Country Music, before playing his third and most recent album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, in its entirety. Accompanied by a band featuring acoustic, bass and electric guitar, trumpet, saxophone and trombone, with drums and a keyboard to boot, the high arching walls of The Fillmore were filled to the brim with a rounded, complete southern sound.
Simpson’s stage presence is both stoic and undeniably striking. He often looks up from the mic with a thousand-yard-stare, singling out members of the audience, sometimes smiling, sometimes not. His voice is both strong and genuine, often compared to Waylon Jennings. Though achieving some critical acclaim and having a devoted fan base, Simpson rarely if ever gets any radio time from Philly’s 92.5 XTU. His style is a stark contrast from the pop country that dominates today’s airwaves; reminiscent of the rough and rugged roots of outlaw country’s heyday in the 70’s. Simpson recently made headlines after bashing the ACM for naming an award after the late great Merle Haggard, claiming in a statement that: “If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard, they should drop all the formulaic cannon fodder bulls–t they’ve been pumping down rural America’s throat for the last 30 years along with all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show bulls–t and start dedicating their programs to more actual Country Music.” Simpson’s authenticity is one thing that’ll never come into question. Rolling Stone recently interviewed the singer-songwriter at length (read the interview here), covering everything from the incident to his roots and inspiration.
While there’s no telling when he’ll roll through town again, one things for sure: if you’re a fan of country music, Simpson’s show isn’t one you’ll want to miss.