Sturgill Simpson @ Whelans - 4th October 2014

The evening opened with a fine set from Glasgow country artist Daniel Meade who was accompanied (with great verve) on vocal and guitar by Lloyd Reid. He delivered a mix of original songs like If It's Not Your Fault I Guess It's Mine and Not My Heart Again alongside covers such as Sitting On Top Of The World and Cold, Cold Heart. All appreciated by the full house audience.

It's not that long ago that Sturgill Simpson made his debut in Dublin supporting Laura Cantrell. That time he was solo but this time out he is accompanied by his three piece band. "Dublin, How ya doin' " was his opening greeting as he launched into Sad Song And Waltzes a Willie Nelson song before giving the audience a mix of covers and songs from his first two albums. It was an explosive show with the band firing on all cylinders. The rhythm section of Miles Miller and Kevin Black lay down a solid foundation for Simpson and Estonian guitarist Laur Joamets (known to the band as Jo) to dazzle with their six string skills. Simpson commented that he had to go to Eastern Europe to find a guitarist who knew how to play country music. Boy what a find.

Joamets could rock, twang and fingerpick with the best. He drew a wide variety of sounds from his Telecaster. Topping this is Simpson's voice, a deep resonant instrument that has brought comparisons to that of Waylon Jennings. Something he noted before he played the aforementioned Jennings' I've Been A long Time Leaving. There where echoes of other greats too guitar wise, such as in the "boom chicka boom" guitar that brought Luther Perkins to mind. Just one flavour in a big stew. They also played a fast and furious bluegrass song where Simpson's Martin acoustic mixed seamlessly with Joamets' Telecaster to create an exciting mesh of tones and textures.

Lefty Frizzell's I Never Go Round Mirrors and the encore of Listen To The Rain from The Osbourne Brothers were two other non original songs in the set which was high energy throughout and found many of the songs extend into long instrumental passage were all four players built on the sound to create something dynamic and beyond mere live renditions of the recorded album tracks. 

Simpson express some surprise that he was here recounting how he thought how when he had finished the album he had effectively killed his career only to find himself being invited to play the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Audiotorium. Something that obviously meant a lot to him. However the greater media attention that came with the success of the album had some downsides as he told of going across the alley behind the Ryman for a beer when a very drunk patron called from across the bar "oh my god are you Stewgill Wilson". A nom de plume that his band have adopted to tease him at every occasion he told us with humour.

Sturgill Simpson came and he conquered and audience that was younger and more varied than what may be seen at most "country" gigs. That energy was infectious and the band were a perfect foil for Simpson's voice and song choice. He was ably assisted with the vocals by drummer Miles Miller and everything jelled as the best live gigs should. He promised to be back and I think a great many there will be in the audience again too.

Below left Daniel Meade     Review by Stephen Rapid     Photography by Ronnie Norton