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Photo: RETO STERCHI

Sturgill Simpson – “All Around You” (Singles Going Steady)

Just in case we weren't sure of Sturgill Simpson's stance on our current president, he makes it very clear here.

Mike Schiller: Well, a thing doesn’t always have to be subtle to be beautiful, does it? Fresh off his Grammy win and a surprise appearance in the “Album of the Year” category comes the video for the song he played at that particular ceremony. Just in case we weren’t sure of Simpson’s stance on our current president, he makes it very clear here. In the video, a child — and, one is to assume, all the purity of heart and mind that child is meant to represent — gives an iron-fisted Trump the what-for, smashes a heart-shaped hole in a tremendous wall, and rids the world of war machines. It’s comforting to see these sorts of messages come out of the heartland and at a time when Simpson’s audience is as broad as it has ever been. For its part, the song itself is as beautiful and appropriate as it could be. It’s a tale of perseverance and strength and love in 6/8 country-gospel style, complete with a few brilliant Dap-Kings horns to bring it all home. Just lovely. [9/10]

Steve Horowitz: These days it seems like the sun never shines. Rather than look at the bad side of life, Simpson encourages us to look at the good that exists. There is god within all of us. There is love. There is the wonder of the universe. We just need to find the strength to keep on fighting. The horns do a wonderful job of expressing soulful feelings while Simpson presents his paean to hope. Simpson may be just whistling in the graveyard. Despite the charming video of a boy reshaping the world and conquering hate with love, most of the time in real life the tanks win. Still, this is art, not propaganda, and inspires from a real sense of purpose. The song demands one sing along and find one’s power within. [8/10]

Chris Ingalls: Easily one of the best songs on an album that has no bad songs. Simpson is a master at expanding the role of “outlaw country” by declaring that there are no rules. On “All Around You” he frames the arrangement with old-school R&B horns, essentially creating a fusion of Otis Redding and Waylon Jennings. You could pick any song from A Sailor’s Guide to Earth — one of 2016 finest albums, for my money — and declare it a new spin on a classic genre. “All Around You” is certainly no exception. [9/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: Warm brass and down-home country strings come together in a comforting embrace. The song itself forgoes politics for the more neutral message of love conquering hate, but Simpson makes no secret about which of those two sides the current president fights for in his video, a moving piece featuring a young caped crusader who goes from prematurely world-weary to tearing down walls and wars with the power of hope. It’s a little heavy-handed, and very sentimental, but the well-rounded arrangements give it a solid foundation, and the passion in Simpson’s voice inspires. [7/10]

Jonathan Frahm: We have pulses, we know the stereotypes that many country musicians still willfully follow — especially when talking politics. So, when Sturgill Simpson releases a music video centered on a child superhero using the power of love to dismantle the hatred that demagogues like Trump have created feels like a revelation. It’s just the right amount of imagery, too — nothing too flashy, but direct enough to not question the allusion. I’ve always loved “All Around You”, too, so that helps. [8/10]

Paul Carr: Sturgill Simpson continues his quest to explore new directions for his sound. Here he straddles the divide between country and soul. Based on an easy, classic country rhythm he embellishes the sound with horns and lush, orchestral strings. The lyrics are an earnest call for those who find themselves victims of the darkness to keep sight of the light. Despite the somber tone of the lyrics the music comes across as earthy and warm. It’s a memorable song from an artist who is always looking to challenge himself. [7/10]

SCORE: 8.00

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