Home Music album Album Review – “The Ballad of Dood and Juanita” by Sturgill Simpson

Album Review – “The Ballad of Dood and Juanita” by Sturgill Simpson


No matter what happens next, Sturgill Simpson has left such an indelible mark on the legacy of country music and music in general with his contribution to five albums over the past eight years (with two side projects bluegrass ), you can’t help but feel the urge to bow down, slowly clap, show some kind of appreciation and gratitude as he delivers what he has proclaimed to be his last album as an artist. solo.

Innovative, sometimes traditionalist and sometimes iconoclastic, Stugill Simpson aroused emotions, broke down barriers and inspired his peers and understudies. It has also become quite polarizing, where no matter what it releases, strong opinions come to the surface before even a little bit of music is heard. Don’t worry if you are a Sturgill Simpson fan. As we always had the feeling that he was talking about his “five album plan”, it is not bulletproof. Sturgill has made some deductions that he will start a group next. It is therefore unlikely that we have heard from his latest news.

As we would expect from Sturgill Simpson, Dood and Juanita’s ballad is a cycle of songs conceptualized as opposed to a simple collection of random tracks, in the hope that these phrases lend themselves to something greater than the sum of their individual parts, and result in a more immersive experience for the listener . Although the album is titled Simpson’s Grandparents, it’s not really about them. It is set in the Appalachians 100 years before their birth and unfolds like a love and revenge story involving fictional characters, essentially a western, but with the wrinkle of taking place instead in the eastern United States.

Dood is a half breed whose father was a mountaineer and mother was Shawnee. Juanita is the apple of Dood’s eye. Two other characters that appear are Dood’s trusty steed, Shamrock, and trusty dog ​​Sam. Sham and Sam, as they are affectionately called.

Although Sturgill says he wrote the album within days, he did his due diligence to ensure that no anachronistic inconsistencies crept into it, referring to widespread brands relevant to the time and conferring other specific details that bring the decor and characters to life. . Sturgill’s acting efforts in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film Moon Flower Killers portraying the infamous rodeo champion and bootlegger Henry Grammer apparently helped Simpson synchronize with the character of Dood, and he imagined the plot of the story as he drove from Nashville to Oklahoma where the movie was filmed.

To help bring the story to life, Sturgill enlisted the same Hillbilly Avengers crew who recorded their last bluegrass record. Cut the Grass Vol. 2 – Cowboy Arms sessions– ie Sierra Hull, Stuart Duncan and the others, and recorded it in the same space – the Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa, made infamous by “Cowboy” Jack Clement himself. Willie Nelson also appears on guitar via a track broadcast across the continent to the Cowboy Arms studio. According to Sturgill, he started writing the album on a Sunday, and it was recorded and finished completely at the end of the same week.

Taking a primitive approach to music, Dood and Juanita’s ballad isn’t exactly bluegrass, but the genre of primitive country and Appalachian folk that would influence country and bluegrass in future generations. Sturgill Simpson’s voice takes on a decidedly deeper timbre in this work, even before he takes on an even deeper affectation when he sings Dood’s trusty steed on the song “Shamrock”.

Crackling campfire sounds, gunshots, galloping horses, sounds of frogs and crickets, as well as percussion elements are brought to the recording to give it a more cinematic feel. Similar to other concept records, many of the tracks on the album are best used to move the narrative forward within the album cycle, as opposed to the standalone singles. But when an a capella moment pays homage to Dood’s hound “Sam”, it also constitutes a great moment of empowerment, even if it lasts only a little over a minute.

And while it’s easy to show excessive favoritism for the track where the warm and familiar tones of Willie Nelson’s Trigger guitar appear, the song “Juanita” is truly the moment when the music, the story and the Sturgill’s moving vocals which present an impressive range make for arguably the best individual take-out of this particular song cycle.

Dood and Juanita’s ballad is a nice little record, and makes a quality edition of Sturgill Simpson’s discography. When it comes to the leads and vision that Sturgill brought to the project, it’s hard to guess the decisions or the outcomes. Yet for a record that just a few months ago Sturgill told us he wanted to take his “mild weather on… because I’m pretty sure I’m about to do my opus then bow out and spray like Houdini, ” Dood and Juanita’s ballad just feels a little rushed and ultimately missing.

Despite the 10-track album, it was nearly 28 minutes in total, which drew some criticism, including from core Sturgill Simpson fans. But as your wife or girlfriend will tell you, it’s not just the length, but what you do with it. With a prologue and an epilogue, not a lot of variety or imagination in the instrumentation, or pieces that work outside of the song cycle – and frankly, a plot that could have benefited from a lot more fleshing out ( most of the songs are just songs about the individual characters) –Dood and Juanita’s ballad just feels a bit light on the hardware.

We all tend to overestimate concept records. Music critics do this in particular. But when Willie Nelson delivered Red-headed alien, or even Phases and stages before him, or The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released Will the circle be unbroken, or Hank Williams III Straight to hell, or Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern sounds in country music, they were doing something that nobody had really done in country music before.

Corn Dood and Juanita’s ballad has been done before, and quite frequently. If we’re being honest the whole record is like a trope, right down to the vintage story and even the sound effects. For years people tried to emulate what Willie did with Red-headed alien, With more or less success. It’s a trope because when it’s done right, it works. But at this point, make your version of Red-headed alien is a paint by numbers company.

Dood and Juanita’s ballad looks like an album Sturgill Simpson recorded to pull off his promised fifth and final album and move on to something he’s more passionate about. The Cut the grass the volumes feel more passionate than this project, even though they mostly included material already released. In fact, this album feels more like a continuation of those albums than a totally original effort. Did they even hit mic stands at Cowboy Arms studio between recording? Cut the Grass Vol. 2 and that? Or did they just leave them there to save time? This is the record that looks like a side project that shouldn’t count towards the five-album plan. And if it was a side project, you would love to receive it. As the highlight of Sturgill Simpson’s musical career, it feels a bit deflated.

When we saw the title of this record, it seemed like something Sturgill Simpson would put his whole soul into and possibly end up in his most personal work to date, taking the personal history he sowed in his music through his love of his papaya Dood for whom he wrote the song “Hero” and which appears at the beginning of Metamodern sounds in country music present the album, and bring Sturgill Simpson back to High mountain Kentucky cemetery where his ancestors are buried, and what inspired the name of his first record, completing his career as a perfect circle.

But almost anyone could have written and recorded Dood and Juanita’s ballad, and basically, some have already done it, but better. Mamma Coal (aka Carra Stasney) did a great 15 song cycle in 2016 called The raven haired vixen. Slacckeye Slim won Saving Country Music Album of the Year in 2011 for El Santo Grial … These took the Red-headed alien concept and makes them their own. And yes, there is a greater level of expectation on Sturgill Simpson’s shoulders because of who he is and what he has accomplished. He deserved it.

Again, that’s not it Dood and Juanita’s ballad is by no means a bad track record. For what it is, it’s really cool. This is one of those criticisms that are often misunderstood because you have a lot of qualifying points to make on an otherwise good file. The concern is more about what it could have been than what it is. From the point of view of this objective and informed music critic, Dood and Juanita’s ballad was probably the 3rd or 4th best album to be released on the single release day of August 20, although it garnered the lion’s share of attention because it was about Sturgill.

Years from now, when listeners sift through Sturgill Simpson’s discography in hopes of discovering gold, as we all do with records from the greats of country that came before us, they will find Dood and Juanita’s ballad and consider it a beautiful edition of Sturgill Simpson’s legacy. But he will not be considered his Red-headed alien. This distinction can only go to an album that is also revolutionary, original and remarkably influential. And for Sturgill Simpson, it remains Metamodern sounds in country music.

1 3/4 Guns Up (7.5 / 10)

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