5 Sturgill Simpson Songs That Will Get Any New Listener Hooked

Sturgill Simpson clearly stated that he planned to release five albums as a solo artist and walk away. True to his word, he dropped his fifth and final album, The Ballad of Dood & Juanita in 2021 and has been largely absent from the music world since then. Instead, he’s tried his hand at acting in movies and TV.

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Simpson released five albums of original songs and two albums featuring bluegrass arrangements of some of those songs. His catalog has a little something for everyone—from old Western-style cowboy songs to full-on psychedelic rock and just about everything in between. Here are five songs to get you—or your friends—started on the path to Sturgill fandom.

[RELATED: Mystic Mind: A Q&A with Sturgill Simpson]

“Sam” Sturgill Simpson’s Ode to a Good Dog

It’s often said that two things set country music apart from most other genres of popular music—the storytelling and the relatability of the lyrics. In “Sam” Simpson nails both with sharp precision.

The song from his 2021 concept album, The Ballad of Dood & Juanita is about a great hound dog named Sam who died. Stu paints a vivid picture of the “hound of hounds” and “wonder of all walkers” in this incredibly sad song. Anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet will feel this one deep in their bones.

“Sam” is for fans of cowboy songs, sad songs, and good dogs.

“Make Art Not Friends”

In 2019, Simpson was one of the most celebrated independent country artists in the game. So, when he released Sound & Fury, it left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans. They were expecting another country album but what they got was a concept album that combined hard rock, psychedelic blues, and funk. The album was also the soundtrack to an anime of the same name.

“Make Art Not Friends” seems to be the mission statement behind Sound and Fury. The lyrics shed light on Simpson’s attitude about the music business and his place in it. Simply put, he was more interested in making art that he enjoyed than making friends in the industry or keeping demanding fans happy.

“Make Art Not Friends” is for fans of psychedelic rock, synth solos, and hard-hitting songwriting.

 “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)”

Sturgill Simpson released his major label debut A Sailor’s Guide to Earth in 2016 to universal acclaim. The album featured nine great tracks including a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” It also showed a bit of Simpson’s diversity when it came to instrumentation, arrangement, and songwriting. He released “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)” as the album’s lead single.

Sonically, this song is closer to blues-infused Southern rock than country. However, that doesn’t keep it from being one of the most-played songs on Sailor’s Guide. The song’s lyrics see Simpson accepting death as inevitable and urging the listener to live the best life they can while they still can.

Find a bluegrass rendition of this one on Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 2.

“Brace for Impact” is for fans of blues-rock, Southern rock, and songs about dying.

Have you ever heard a country song that is openly about dropping acid and meeting God? If you said no, you haven’t heard “Turtles All the Way Down,” the second single from Simpson’s 2014 sophomore album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.

[RELATED: Sturgill Simpson Slams ACM Awards for Exploiting Merle Haggard’s Legacy; Lambasts Garden And Gun Magazine For Reneging On Promised Haggard Cover]

Sonically, “Turtles” sounds like Simpson and his band giving a nod to Waylon Jennings. Lyrically, the song is about psychedelic drugs, the power of love, and the baselessness of existence. Reptile aliens, Jesus, and Buddha show up in the song.

He released a bluegrass rendition of it on Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1.

“Turtles All the Way Down” is for fans of outlaw country, introspective or philosophical lyrics, and songs about psychedelic substances.

“You Can Have the Crown”

Sturgill Simpson has been open about his disdain for “You Can Have the Crown.” However, it remains the most-played song on his 2013 debut solo album High Top Mountain.

[RELATED: Watch A Live Discussion Between John Prine And Sturgill Simpson]

The song is a great example of modern country music. It has all the sonic markers—big electric guitar riffs, soaring pedal steel, and a driving rhythm section. At the same time, the lyrics are about a down-and-out artist trying to make it, contemplating a bank robbery, and trying to figure out what the hell rhymes with Bronco.

Simpson included a bluegrass rendition of this one on Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 2.

“You Can Have the Crown” is for fans of outlaw country, plain and simple.

Featured Image by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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