Review: Sturgill Simpson Spins an Old-Time Yarn With ‘The Ballad of Dood & Juanita’

by Clayton Edwards
review-sturgill-simpson-spins-old-time-yarn-ballad-of-dood-juanita

Historically, what we call country music was the soundtrack to America’s mountains and hollers. A couple of things set country apart from other genres. First, a set of traditional instruments—guitar, bass, fiddle, and mandolin—create the unique sound.

However, the lyrics drive the heart of the genre. For generations, country music has been full of storytellers. The best songs in the genre tell stories of love, life, struggle, and sometimes death. Sturgill Simpson tapped directly into these things and dug deep into the genre’s roots for his latest release, The Ballad of Dood & Juanita.

However, The Ballad of Dood & Juanita isn’t just an album full of individual story songs. Sturgill Simpson used the album’s 10 tracks to tell one story. Each of the tracks serves as a chapter in the tale of Dood, his dog, his mule, and the woman he loves. The traditional country and bluegrass music is just a backdrop.

Standout Tracks from Sturgill Simpson’s New Album

Sometimes, it’s hard to pick the best tracks from a good album. However, it’s even tougher with Sturgill Simpson’s latest release. Honestly, The Ballad of Dood & Juanita is best enjoyed in its entirety. With that being said, here are a few of my favorite moments from the record.

‘Ol’ Dood (Part I)’

Sturgill Simpson opens his latest release by introducing the man himself. “Ol’ Dood (Part I)” lets us all know what kind of man we’ll be following. The verses go into detail. However, the chorus sums it all up nicely

Left the varnish off his words, feared no beast nor man / Didn’t want to end up in his debt ’cause it’d damn sure get paid / He was harder than the nails hammerеd Jesus’ hands / He was the onе they called Dood / Son of a mountain miner and a Shawnee maid.”

‘Sam’ – Sturgill Simpson Goes A Capella

A few songs on this album function as character introductions. “Sam” is about Dood’s faithful hound. I can’t say much about the song’s content without giving away spoilers to the overall story. However, I can say that the track features Sturgill Simpson singing a capella about a hound dog. It’s a beautiful song.

‘Go in Peace’

“Go in Peace” is another one of those tracks that contains spoilers for The Ballad of Dood & Juanita. In fact, it’s one of the final songs on the album and wraps up one of the main plotlines in the overall story. However, I can say that this is pure bluegrass. The banjo is blindingly fast and Sturgill Simpson’s voice expertly captures that iconic high lonesome sound.

Final Thoughts

Sturgill Simpson showed his affinity for American roots music with his Cuttin’ Grass records. With this release, he dug deeper into the past. Like most of his records, The Ballad of Dood & Juanita isn’t for everyone. However, if you enjoy bluegrass and other traditional music of the Appalachian region, you’re going to love this.

The music on this record is great. However, Simpson also proves that he is a masterful storyteller. This album is a tale you’ll want to hear over and over again.

Outsider.com