Sturgill Simpson released Cuttin’ Grass Volume 2: The Cowboy Arms Sessions on Friday. It’s his second surprise album over the past two months.
The album looks back at Simpson’s music and reinterprets them as bluegrass and roots music. He had kept the album a secret until late Thursday when he uploaded the album art to his Instagram.
“On Vol. 2, we recorded everything I was too afraid to do on Vol. 1,” Simpson said in a press release.
Simpson released Cutting Grass Vol 1: The Butcher Shoppe Sessions in October.
Vol 1 pulls mostly from his album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, NPR said. But it also features a never-before-heard track Simpson wrote with country music icon Merle Haggard. Haggard sent the song, Hobo Cartoon, to Simpson shortly before his death in 2016.
“Merle loved bluegrass, so it felt like a proper homage, really exposed and stripped down to the root of something,” Simpson in the release.
Best Tracks Off of Cuttin’ Grass Volume 2
Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1 was a continued shift for Sturgill Simpson. On his previous album, Sound & Fury, the country singer/songwriter had turned out what he called a “sleazy, steamy, rock ‘n’ roll record” But by continuing to chase his interests, Simpson found something new in his old songs in Vol. 1. Vol. 2 continues that trend by giving his catalog new life through the lens of the new genre.
Hobo Cartoon, one of two new songs on the album, pays respect to bluegrass singers who inspired tales of adventure and struggle. The song is a clear homage to the music that inspired both him and Haggard and feels like it could have been written while riding the rails during The Great Depression. It’s also nice to hear Haggard’s influence and words on the track.
Jesus Boogie, which he made with his first band Sunday Valley, was an angry screed from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. But on Cuttin’ Grass Volume 2, the song becomes almost a whimper. The bluegrass backing removes the edge from the song and emphasizes the grace in sacrifice.
Both songs stand out on Vol. 2. which is clearly a much more personal album than Vol. 1. Though the more recent album feels less of a departure and more of a man reconciling this past and his future.