Previous Material Decries Drug War, Praises Psychedelics
When Sturgill Simpson took the stage on The Daily Show to debut his song “Call To Arms” to a national television audience, the message was clear – “Something new is happening in country music.” In fact, it was clear that something is changing in music altogether. Simpson is not your average artist, much less your average country artist. From his very first album, Hightop Mountain and especially his second, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Simpson stayed far away from the sanitized hayseed “bro-country” of hardly believable pickup trucks, dirt roads, and fishin’ that Nashville pop country radio has shoved down the throats of listeners for years. Simpson’s album was outlaw country plain and simple – both in the sound and the message. From the opening song of Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, Simpson decried the pitfalls of religion and the tyranny of the drug war while praising psychedelics at the same time. Along with his cryptic mention of “reptile aliens,” Simpson sings, “Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, and DMT they all changed the way I see/But love’s the only thing that ever saved my life.” Sturgill also points out the insanity of passing laws and throwing supposedly free people in cages for possessing plants and psychedelics. He asks, “Tell me how you make illegal something that we all make in our brain?”
In the song, “Voices” he described the hidden hand behind the direction in which society is heading, one in which humanity’s future may very well be one of conflagration. Simpson sings “Voices behind curtains forked tongues that have no name/They plot their wicked schemes setting fate for all mankind/With evil that can fill God’s pretty skies with clouds that burn and blind.”
But it is the song “Call To Arms” off his new album A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, that is the most overtly political in Simpson’s catalog (performed live on The Daily Show here, and posted below from KCRW). A rousing anti-war song, “Call To Arms” goes beyond the general “war sucks” motif and shows an apparent knowledge of American foreign policy that goes beyond that which even many commentators possess.
The song itself begins with the lines, “Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran/North Korea, tell me where does it end?” The fact that the singer recognizes that the United States is indeed at war with Syria, Iran, and North Korea is a perceptive note, particularly in a time when most Americans couldn’t find those countries on a map or somehow believe that war itself ended in 2008. Indeed, some reviewers have been confused as to what Simpson is trying to get across, asking the question, “Are we really at war with North Korea or Iran?” in a snarky way intended to point out what they perceive as Simpson’s lack of political understanding. In reality, their comments and rhetorical questions only demonstrate their own ignorance.
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Simpson also exposes the nature of the Afghan war or, at least one aspect of it. He sings, “Well they sent their sons and daughters off to die/for some war to control the heroin.” Again, Simpson is correct. But perhaps he should begin adding a “bibliography” along with his CDs so the incredibly ignorant commentators and reviewers who puzzle at his “bizarre” lyrics will be able to at least reference what he is referring to. After all, Afghanistan had nothing to do with heroin, it was 19 hijackers and Saddam Hussein, right?
Simpson, himself a Navy veteran, also lashes out against the idea that military service or blindly following orders is the measure of a true man. “Well, son I hope you don’t grow up/Believin’ that you’ve got to be a puppet to be a man,” he sings.
Simpson also exposes the entertainment-obsessed culture, compulsively checking phones, social media, and television to feed their egos while war and the decay of their own culture is visible all around them. “They serve up distractions and we eat them with fries/Until the bombs fall out of our fucking skies,” says the song, pointing out the obvious that empire cannot help but one day come home and that, eventually, America may come to regret antagonizing the world with war and occupation.
Sturgill Simpson is a much needed breath of fresh air in not only the generally pro-war country scene but also in the music world in general. Unfortunately, at best, the general makeup of American music artists can only manage tired repetitive dissent during Republican administrations and times when the public are already inclined to agree with their positions. In other words, they are able to release these songs when it is artistically safe to do so.
Perhaps most importantly for the measurement of any artist, however, is that not only has Simpson shown a remarkable amount of courage for an artist in 2016, but his songs are actually good. For that reason alone, Simpson has set himself apart from the vast majority of his peers.
Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, and The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President. Turbeville has published over 650 articles on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. His website is BrandonTurbeville.com He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.
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