Cuttin' Grass - Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions)
Sturgill Simpson may be known to many as a savior of country music, but the Kentucky-born singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, and producer has deep roots in bluegrass. Simpson spent his early days living in Nashville cutting his musical teeth at the famed bluegrass venue the Station Inn, where the city's best players come together for virtuosic weekly jam sessions and sightings of bluegrass royalty like Sam Bush or Jerry Douglas are regular occurrences. On this surprise-release album, Simpson revisits those string band roots by rerecording some of his best-loved material as all-acoustic bluegrass numbers, helmed by frequent Simpson collaborator David Ferguson at his Nashville Butcher Shoppe recording studio. Reimagined tracks included span most of Simpson's catalog, including 2013's High Top Mountain (including "Railroad of Sin" and "Old King Coal"), 2014's breakout Metamodern Sounds in Country Music ("Living the Dream," "Long White Line," and fan favorite "Turtles All the Way Down," among others), and 2016's Grammy-winning A Sailor's Guide to Earth (including "Breakers Roar" and "All Around You"). The stripped-down tracks remain faithful lyrically and melodically, but are made all the more lush by expert arrangements from some of bluegrass's best players, like Sierra Hull on mandolin, Tim O'Brien on guitar, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, and Scott Vestal on banjo. Simpson's voice, which can reach a low growl or a high, lonesome wail in the matter of a single measure, is especially suited for bluegrass, so much so you forget these songs ever existed in previous incarnations.