Sturgill Simpson was the third to take the stage in this year’s trio of butt-kicking country and blues acts, with the Marcus King Band and Elvin Bishop playing on previous days of the festival. Born in Kentucky, Simpson is Nashville-based, but not part of the Nashville mainstream, a purist musician at the opposite pole from the “bro-country” that holds a lot of power in today’s country music industry. And yet he’s one of the players the guys who sell out stadiums revere. He’s got musical chops like few in Nashville and a reputation he built all his own. His booming classic country vocals and electric guitar licks drawing on blues, rock and country traditions all filled to the brim with emotion. That’s pretty hard to find.

On Sunday afternoon at the Field of Heaven, he found a crowd that was ready for him. Wearing blue jeans and samue, a traditional wrap-around Japanese shirt tied with a cloth sash, Simpson led a four-piece of himself on vocals and electric guitar, bass, drums and wooden Hammond B3 organ flown half-way around the world for this gig. Boy, did it sound sweet. The group jammed up every song, and excepting one love ballad that Simpson said was “for the ladies”, it was rocking stuff.

Interesting to note, though this is Simpson’s first show at Fuji Rock, he’s been in Japan before — in the navy. In fact, he’s even got a song about it on his latest album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (2016). “I used to live here a very long time ago,” he told the audience, “so this one’s for you guys.” Then he played “Sea Stories”, which has this gem of a lyric:

When I hit the ground running in Tokyo
From Kawasaki to Ebisu
Yokosuka, Yokohama, and Shinjuku
Shibuya, Ropongi, and Harajuku
Aw, from Pusan and Ko Chang, Pattaya to Phuket
From Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
Seen damn near the whole damn world
From the inside of a bar

 Photo by Yusuke Kitamura  Text by David Frazier Posted on 2017.7.31 01:49