Sturgill Simpson keeps reminding folks that they’re missing out if they consider an artist capable of making music in only one style. By a quirk of timing, his stellar 2019 album Sound & Fury is up for Best Rock Album at the 2021 Grammys; he took home Best Country Album in 2017 for A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Back in December, he released the second volume of his Cuttin’ Grass series of bluegrass LPs, featuring new recordings of old songs with a slew of top-shelf bluegrass players.
Last night, another song from a live session with the group filmed at the Station Inn aired on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Above, see Simpson, drummer Miles Miller, bassist Mike Bub, fiddler Stuart Duncan, guitarists Tim O’Brien and Mark Howard, banjo player Scott Vestal and mandolinist Sierra Hull play a fluid and ferocious take on “Life of Sin.” That’s a number previously recorded as something of a rocker on Simpson’s breakthrough second LP Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. The common threads between the versions emphasize how genre doesn’t really come from the music itself, but from our need to contextualize it — whether we’re listening or trying to sell it. Simpson, his bandmates and the music sell themselves.
The ’grassified version of “Life of Sin” appears on the first Cuttin’ Grass LP, subtitled The Butcher Shoppe Sessions. That was recorded with David R. Ferguson at the late John Prine’s now-shuttered studio The Butcher Shoppe. The second volume is called The Cowboy Arms Sessions, and was made at the late Cowboy Jack Clement’s Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa. The new LP includes “Jesus Boogie,” originally recorded by a band Simpson was in called Sunday Valley, and “Hobo Cartoon,” a song he wrote with Merle Haggard. Both records are available via Simpson’s Bandcamp profile.