Sturgill Simpson – The Ballad of Dood & Juanita (2021) [FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Sturgill Simpson – The Ballad of Dood & Juanita (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/96kHz | Time – 27:46 minutes | 595 MB | Genre: Country
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © High Top Mountain Records

Inspired by such classic concept albums as Willie Nelson’s Red-Headed Stranger, Sturgill Simpson’s The Ballad of Dood & Juanita is the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter’s third album in twelve months, and his most ambitious project to date. Written and recorded in less than a week, and featuring the same ace musicians who played on last year’s Cuttin’ Grass albums, the record tells a classic American story of a Civil War-era couple torn apart by violence and reunited by love-what Simpson calls “a simple tale of either redemption or revenge.”

Sturgill Simpson loves a curveball. He’s excelled at Americana, country soul, covers of Nirvana and When In Rome’s “The Promise,” traditional bluegrass and a whole record of ZZ Top-style heavy rock. He’s been nominated for both Best Country Album and Best Rock Album by the Grammys. He sounds, and acts, like an outlaw-hell, sometimes he sounds just like Waylon Jennings-but rejects that label. So it should be no surprise that his seventh studio album is such a surprise. It’s not an ode to old-time mountain music. It is old-time mountain music, and bluegrass, tent-revival gospel and country from the Carter Family up to Johnny Cash.

The Ballad of Dood & Juanita is like a movie, telling a (tall?) tale of Simpson’s real-life grandparents. (That’s the singer’s late “Pawpaw,” Lawrence “Dood” Fraley’s drawl you hear opening 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.) It starts out with a character sketch set to a musket shot-riddled march: “[Dood] was a mighty mountain man, [Juanita] was his one true love.” We learn that Dood was “harder than the nails hammered Jesus’ hands” but Juanita tamed his heart. Then she was kidnapped by a bandit, prompting Dood to set off with his mule and dog (“One in the Saddle, One on the Ground”). There are odes to the mule (the Cash-like “Shamrock”) and dog (“Sam” and its heart-wrenching gospel a cappella). Poor, pitiful Dood suffers insult to injury when Sam dies while they’re searching for his wife (“Played Out”)-who then shows up in dream form for the Spanish-flavored “Juanita,” appealingly Marty Robbins-eque with what sounds like castanets and maraca. Hallelujah, Juanita is rescued, and so is Dood, thanks to a wise tribe of Cherokee, plus some Stanley Brothers harmonies and a slow-train harmonica howl. Perhaps a spoiler warning should’ve come a dozen times by now, but Dood exacts his revenge on the evil bandit by the end. Even for all that, it doesn’t pack the emotional wallop of an old Simpson song like “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)” but it’s an interesting concept and a loving tribute, and much more than just novelty. – Shelly Ridenour

01. Prologue
02. Ol’ Dood (Part I)
03. One in the Saddle, One on the Ground
04. Shamrock
05. Played Out
06. Sam
07. Juanita (feat. Willie Nelson)
08. Go in Peace
09. Epilogue
10. Ol’ Dood (Part II)