His honest songwriting brings to mind other regretful, yet unrepentant artists like Jason Isbell and Justin Townes Earle. His voice brings to mind Waylon Jennings. And he’s even been called the savior of country music, but I don’t get the feeling he’s interested in saving anything.
What I love about Simpson is that he uses his powerful voice and incisive songwriting to say infinitely more than you realize on your first few listens. He could easily remain an old country revivalist, but he pushes his music and the genre forward. His cover of When in Rome’s “The Promise” is so startlingly different, I didn’t even realize that it was the same song until it I read about it. Like Johnny Cash, Simpson is a song stylist along with being a great songwriter.
I saw him in concert recently, and the 36 year-old Navy veteran jokingly lamented that he’s become famous at an age where he’s jaded enough to not get caught up in it. I hope that will benefit him going forward as he comes to grips with finally achieving acclaim, and I hope he continues to make great art along the way.
The critics love “Turtles All the Way Down”, but that’s actually my least favorite Simpson song. “Life of Sin” is great, and was loved by the only real critic that matters, David Letterman.