Sturgill Simpsons sophomore record is downright disorienting.
His voice rich and rough, with a vivid twang telegraphing old-school country from miles away is mixed into music that, on its face, sounds like prime Music City magic, but upon repeated listens, reveals itself to be something far more complex and odd, replete with peculiar flourishes (dig the trippy backmasking on It Aint All Flowers).
Even the title Metamodern Sounds in Country Music feels ripped from the 70s, when country artists like Willie Nelson, Gram Parsons and Jessi Colter brazenly upended the Nashville formula, unafraid of getting weird or getting raw.
In that respect, Simpsons fearless deep dive feels revolutionary in an era where Nashvilles focus is upon the slick and shallow.
The Kentucky native may not always make sense (the opening track is titled Turtles All the Way Down, and praises psychotropics: Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin and DMT/They all changed the way I see, Simpson sings), but he is making music that feels like it was conceived by a single person, rather than a committee of songwriters.
This 35-minute excursion often evokes the throwback likes of Jamey Johnson having ingested a small mountain of hallucinogenics.
Simpson exerts a strange power over the material: his cover of 80s pop-rockers When in Romes The Promise feels like a spiritual successor to Harry Nilssons Without You and a lost Waylon Jennings B-side.
Metamodern was produced by Dave Cobb (overseer of Simpsons slept-on 2013 debut, High Top Mountain). They recorded these 10 tracks live-to-tape in Nashville over a period of just four days, with Simpsons touring band joining him in the studio.
The spirit of the good old days is felt most strongly in the too-brief A Little Light, which swings even as it uplifts. The penultimate It Aint All Flowers finds Simpson literally howling and reminding listeners sometimes you gotta feel the thorns against a wall of psychedelic, layered electric guitars that Carlos Santana would appreciate.
On paper, such stylistic chaos must seem like a hodgepodge of ideas working at odds.
But Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is anything but half-baked.
In fact, its a clarion call a bizarrely exciting record designed to jolt country music fans out of their glossy rut.