WATCH: Sturgill Simpson’s Vocals Shine in First Performance of New Song ‘Juanita’ at Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival

by Clayton Edwards

Last month, Sturgill Simpson set the country music world on fire with The Ballad of Dood & Juanita. His most recent, and possibly final, solo outing is a concept record that tells a story fit for a western movie. However, it isn’t just a solid cinematic tale. The beating heart of the record is the traditional-sounding instrumentation that puts listeners in the correct headspace to fully receive the narrative.

Simpson packed Dood & Jaunita with ten stellar tracks. As a result, many listeners find it hard to choose standout songs. However, many agree that “Juanita,” is among the highlights of the record. Sturgill Simpson tapped Outlaw Country icon, Willie Nelson, to play guitar on the track. Willie and Trigger add a jazzy Spanish flavor to the song that makes it stand out sonically from the other nine tracks. So, it was only natural that Sturgill play the song at a stop on Willie’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour. The video below comes from the September 10th stop at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavillion in Gilford, New Hampshire.

Few artists sound as good live as they do on their records. For many, engineering, mastering, and vocal effects smooth out their voices and make them ready for mass consumption. However, Sturgill Simpson proves that he doesn’t need any help making his vocals as smooth as polished glass with this performance.

The whole performance is top-shelf stuff. However, Simpson shows his real vocal chops when he belts, “Juanita, where’d your mama get that name? / There’s no senoritas from the mountains where you came.” That line alone is enough to give you chills.

Sturgill Simpson and the Band Lay a Gorgeous Backdrop

Sturgill Simpson’s voice isn’t the only thing that shines here, though. The band he has on stage with him nails this song. To make things better, it seems like they didn’t really plan to play “Juanita,” during the show. In the opening seconds of the video, you can see Simpson shrug and say, “Alright.” Like someone had tossed out the suggestion of doing the song and it sounded like a pretty good idea to him.

The camera rarely moves away from Sturgill Simpson during the video. However, when it does we can what looks like a traditional string band. It looks like the band consists of another guitar, a mandolin, a fiddle, and a banjo. Simpson and the band effortlessly recreate the song’s Spanish sound from the record.

Like other songs from The Ballad of Dood & Juanita, the instrumentation in “Jaunita,” helps to paint the overall picture of the song. The band creates the perfect sonic backdrop over which Simpson tells his tale of love, loss, and longing. Sure, his vocals are the star of the show. However, they wouldn’t shine quite so bright without the stellar accompaniment.