Take the apparently dumb punning of the title. Stacey Earle is not dumb herself (far from it) but employs this sophomoric wordplay like the simple dress she wears on the cover of this traditional country album: as a costume, as a homely signifier, and also, I fear, as way of lowering your expectations. Because this record aims for inconsequentiality. That is its strength as well as its weakness. If some recording artists, after the doldrums of most nineties popular music have passed, are starting to aim for the fences once again, Earle seems content to lay down a bunt and try to it out.
I do not mean that you will not enjoy this record, only that you must not insist on deep or lasting pleasures. Simple Gearle insists on sinking into the background. (The crackling record sound that opens this package, as well as its faux vinyl division into sides one and two, do not signify country autheticity so much as old-fashioned unobtrusiveness.) The more you try to hear this recording, the more it wants not to be heard.
So that is why Simple Gearle gets the rating I give it. It’s better than average because it hits the mark Stacey Earle aims for, but only just better because she aims pretty low.