Stream Sturgill Simpson’s Surprise Second Bluegrass Album Cuttin’ Grass, Volume 2: The Cowboy Arms Sessions
Taylor Swift isn’t the only artist who followed up one of this year’s best surprise albums with a companion piece last night. After dropping Cuttin’ Grass Volume 1: The Butcher Shoppe Sessions in October, last night, without warning, Sturgill Simpson delivered a second volume of his bluegrass album series, which finds him tearing through another 12 songs from his catalog with a crack band of acoustic musicians known as the Hillbilly Avengers.
Simpson and friends recorded Cuttin’ Grass, Volume 2: The Cowboy Arms Sessions at the late Cowboy Jack Clement’s Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa, a venue once utilized by Simpson forebears like Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings. Fittingly, the album ends with “Hobo Cartoon,” a previously unreleased song Simpson wrote with the late Merle Haggard. “We got to know each other in the last two years of his life,” Simpson says in a press release. “He would call a lot, we’d talk on the phone. When he got sick, he was still writing songs, even in his hospital bed. This just popped up one day in the in box — he sent me these lyrics in a text and he said, ‘From one railroad man to another.'”
After four or five years, it was time to cowboy up and give this thing a go. So I finished writing the song, and it just felt weird to imagine it with some big eight-piece band. Merle loved bluegrass, so it felt like a proper homage, really exposed and stripped down to the root of something. Maybe I’ll recut it with a hard country band one day, but it just seemed like a beautiful way to end this chapter.
The bulk of the material on Cuttin’ Grass Volume 2 is from Simpson’s 2016 opus A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, conceived as a message to his newborn son. There are also three tracks from his 2013 debut High Top Mountain and one from his old band Sunday Valley. Per Simpson, “It’s hard to deny that this is a much more personal record. I was thinking about my kids, my grandfather, my wife.”
A bit more from Simpson on this project:
On Volume 2, we recorded everything I was too afraid to do on Volume 1. For that one, everything was more conventional bluegrass, sort of straight down the middle. But as a benefit of the musicians all getting to know each other and feeling more comfortable, we took more chances and felt more like a band. That gave me the confidence to come in with songs that I was a little more worried how they would translate to bluegrass — but weirdly, it just underscored that, in the end, I guess I’m just a bluegrass songwriter.
OK, enough context. Here’s the music:
Additionally, Simpson and the Hillbilly Avengers performed “All The Pretty Colors” from Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1 on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night. Watch that performance below.
Cuttin’ Grass, Volume 2: The Cowboy Arms Sessions is out now on High Top Mountain Records/Thirty Tigers. Purchase it here.