Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sturgill Simpson - Bush Hall, London Thursday 24th July 2014

He draws on the depth of the blues; He sings the folk songs of the land. However most of all, Sturgill Simpson understands country music and performs it right from the inner sanctum of its very soul. He is unassuming and without pretence with a stolid humility grateful for the gift he has been presented and the current wave of adulation being bestowed upon him. On the back of a storming performance on the David Letterman show back home, Sturgill has once again returned to the UK for a further string of dates and is set to continue to adhere himself with our country music fan base.

Sturgill Simpson
The quaint and slightly worn grandeur surroundings of London’s Bush Hall steamed in a sultry environment more akin to a mid-west summer’s evening as Sturgill strode on to the stage backed by his newly acquainted sidekicks for this tour, Scotland’s very own Daniel Meade and Lloyd Reid. For the next hour and a quarter, a near sold out crowd had a glimpse of honky tonk heaven with Sturgill blowing away the notion that the past is irrelevant in 2014. The seamless mix of complementary covers and sizzling originals raised the tempo in a heady hall possibly reminiscent of venues in Bakersfield, Austin, Nashville and no doubt many in Simpson’s home state of Kentucky.

Daniel Meade
Life of Sin’, ‘Long White Line’ and ‘The Promise’, the latter an interesting cover of an 80s minor UK pop hit by When in Rome, all demonstrated why METAMODERN  SOUNDS IN COUNTRY MUSIC is raking in the praise from ‘the good and the wise’, while Sturgill himself showed no restraint in doing likewise to Lefty Frizzell. While he was slightly surprised to the general lack of awareness in the UK pop song he countrified, there was no such puzzlement when he introduced Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ as one for the ladies.

Prior to providing stellar support for Sturgill, Daniel and Lloyd played an exciting opening set to create the perfect environment for an evening of classic country indulgence. Fresh from making a record in the presence of the Old Crow Medicine Show in the US, Daniel played a straight acoustic driven lead role very much in the style of Justin Townes Earle, with Ian providing reams of guitar mastery. The latter continued in the same vein when backing Sturgill while Daniel reverted to the ambient evoking keyboards. The duo’s original material is worthy of a fuller press and their ‘it would be rude not to celebrate Hank’ version of ‘Cold, Cold Heart’ had the early arrivals tapping and singing along.

Lloyd Reid
On the topic of iconic songs, it may be a little early to laud Sturgill’s ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ in a similar light but as one of the year’s most talked about tracks, it continued to further intrigue this evening. Having teased the audience with the possibility of yet another explanation to this cosmic inducing number, Sturgill drew his chat to a halt and served up a stunning rendition of this classic in the making. The addition of this charisma alongside the awe inspiring vocals and the excellent pickin’ skills made this initial date of Sturgill’s mid-summer extended UK tour a resounding success.

Just before a bluegrass led encore, Sturgill acknowledged appreciation of the belief and investment showed in him by UK indie label Loose Music and promised to bring his full band with him when returning yet again to our shores in October. It is without doubt that by then the awareness and respect for Sturgill Simpson will have continued to grow. In the meantime for one hot and sweaty night in the cramped confines of Bush Hall, real country music graced London with its presence. 

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