By Paul Piazza
Sturgill Simpson’s stop at Ace of Spades was sold-out long before he arrived.
The weekend prior, he played a daytime set at Coachella and he headed there again his Sacramento show. Then there will be appearances at Stagecoach (the country Coachella), Jazz Fest, Bonnaroo and the list goes on until he peaks at Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic in Austin.
The singer with the outlaw baritone is on a serious roll.
Simpson has had great success exploring the nuances between traditional country and modern ways of thinking. His latest album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is a damn good record and crossover hit.
However, when it came right down to it, Friday night’s show was defined not just by Simpson’s powerful singing and songwriting, but the amazing guitar of Laur Joamets. The slick Estonian strummer became Simpson’s guitarist by chance after his band opened for Rival Sons while they were touring his native land. He befriended the band and they recommended him to their producer, whom they shared with Sturgill. Joamets’ chops were a revelation of heavenly slides and sharp blues.
It was interesting to watch the enthusiastic crowd, which was heavy on young country fans. They would howl along joyously with Simpson’s vocals, but become noticeably subdued during the band’s longer jam explorations, which featured Joamets’ intricate and amazing guitar work. It was as if many were trying to figure out how to properly respond—less clear than the definitive response to Sturgill Simpson, a clear force on the Americana music scene.
Photos by Paul Piazza