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Dood & Juanita and Doing What You Want

"The Ballad of Dood & Juanita" is the latest record by country music singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson. A traditional sounding bluegrass infused record, it is also his last.



I used to be much better at finding out about when artists I liked records were coming out. I'm old enough to remember looking in a paper copy of Rolling Stone to find out when something was coming out. Then social changed all of that. Then I backed off of social a bunch because it's all encompassing black hole like qualities.


Now-a-days I find out when new records from artists I enjoy are coming out thanks to the benevolent algorithms of Spotify. I've been on Spotify since 2012, I think. That's quite a lot of time to learn my listening habits and honestly I'm grateful. The last record that the benevolent algorithms placed before me was "The Ballad of Dood & Juanita" by Sturgill Simpson.


I first heard Sturgill's "High Top Mountain" on my first and only trip to New Mexico. I was driving from Albuquerque to Santa Fe to eat blue corn enchiladas at Maria's New Mexican Kitchen. The record was perfect. There was snow on the ground. I was wearing a cowboy hat. Right off the bat it was excellent with the very awesome and poignant "Life Ain't Fair and the World Is Mean" by the time I got to "You Can Have the Crown" I was hooked. This set me on a course to then discover 2014's "Metamodern Sounds in Country Music" (a perfect record if ever one existed). I anxiously awaited "A Sailor's Guide to Earth". It's mix of strings and horns and wit provided the hit of serotonin I expected. Favorites include "Sea Stories" and the single, "Brace For Impact (Live a Little)".


Three years later, with much anticipation "SOUND & FURY" came out. It was better than I had hoped. "SOUND & FURY" was and will always be a rock n roll record. It just plain rocks. It rocks the way all the greats do and for the same reasons. But underneath the great guitar riffs, honest lyrics "keep tuggin' on the thread hoping it all might come unravelled...", and world class production was more. It was the sound of a person doing whatever it is they wanted to do and doing it well.


There are also two insert records from 2020, "Cuttin' Grass - Vol 1" and "Cuttin' Grass - Vol 2". Both are bluegrass arrangements of many of Sturgill's songs from his previous records. They are as good as any of his bluegrass contemporaries' offerings.


Listen to the records and you will see that "SOUND & FURY" is a furious departure from it's older siblings. And that's part of what makes it so great. "The Ballad of Dood & Juanita" is too. Thus, it is also great. In particular I would recommend the Statler Brothers flavored "Shamrock". "Juanita" is as good if not better than any Mexicanized white guy song that Willie or Waylon or Jimmy Buffet did. (In fact Willie collaborated with Sturgill on "Juanita".)



There are plenty of music critics who can opine about the songwriting, the production, the details - I am not one of those. Any attempt to be would be just a poor attempt. I'm just a guy who likes listening to music. Maybe I'm biased because I genuinely enjoy and seek out bluegrass music. This record is framed and steeped in it and that's probably why I think it slaps. I also just finished reading Allan W. Eckert's "The Frontiersmen", a book I picked up at the Green Parrot's little library in Key West, about the settling of Kentucky and Ohio by white people. I'd be lying to tell you that a banjo isn't one of my favorite instruments. But I'm also a guy who can relate to the need to do things the way you want to do them if for no other reason than that you can. It doesn't make me unique, it makes me normal, I think. It gives me solace because then it means I'm not out on an island - there are working artists doing exactly what it most of us do. Maybe we're one species after all. I think that everyone of us has a desire to stretch out and see where the limits of our creativity and comfort lie. The fuzzy edges of what makes you tick can only be made clear when you put them in focus.


Listen to Bluegrass.

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