Inspired by such classic concept albums as Willie Nelson's Red-Headed Stranger, Sturgill Simpson's The Ballad Of Dood & Juanita is the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter's third album in twelve months, and his most ambitious project to date.
Written and recorded in less than a week, and featuring the same ace musicians who played on last year's Cuttin' Grass albums, the record tells a classic American story of a Civil War-era couple torn apart by violence and reunited by love - what Simpson calls "a simple tale of either redemption or revenge."
The Ballad Of Dood & Juanita is Sturgill Simpson's first album of all new original music since the release of 2019's Grammy-nominated Sound & Fury. This new collection of songs was produced by Sturgill and David Ferguson and was recorded in Nashville at the Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa. Special guest Willie Nelson is the featured lead guitarist on the track "Juanita".
Dood and Juanita is unequal parts love story, history lesson, and action-adventure tale, a cross as classic as the sounds around it. Dood and Juanita works so well because Simpson sounds comfortable within this form and just beyond it. He harmonizes tenderly with his band above Stuart Duncan's sweet fiddle line during 'One in the Saddle, One on the Ground,' an ode to both mule and hound. 'Played Out' is an exceptional bluegrass ballad about bearing impossible burdens. And Simpson reaches bluegrass' nasal apogee during 'Go in Peace,' his voice expressing the same anxiety as Scott Vestal's restless banjo. For Simpson, this music is a return to terra firma, to land he knows innately. Listen, though, for the tiny surprises - the wailing harmonica and bounding jaw harp during 'Go in Peace,' the field recordings during 'Played Out,' the background bells and absurdist harmonies of 'Ol' Dood (Part I).' They're minutiae, sure, but they collectively suggest Simpson isn't content just to pick and grin. The entire record, after all, hinges on an exquisite Latin love song, complete with a discursive solo by Willie Nelson. It's the kind of modern bluegrass fantasy Simpson has not only the temerity to try but also the skills to accomplish... Is this the legitimate beginning of his bluegrass career, or just another detour for a songwriter who has mapped his career with them? The Ballad of Dood and Juanita makes that question especially tantalizing, since Simpson seems hellbent on bending the ideas of whatever genre he momentarily chooses, no matter how cloistered it seems. Bluegrass has long benefited from a lineage of weirdo rebels. Simpson fits right in, even if he might one day slip right out.
Written and recorded in a week, it's as swift and easy as a cool summer breeze, its 28 minutes zipping by as Simpson and his Hillbilly Avengers spend as much time picking as they do singing. Its brevity means that The Ballad of Dood & Juanita can initially seem a bit slight, yet it's ultimately quite sturdy, an album that gains its strength from Simpson's dogged dedication to the concept - there's nothing extraneous in his songs here - and the impeccable execution of the band.
- Vinyl LP
|Sturgill Simpson||vocals, rhythm guitar|
|Stuart Duncan||fiddle, backing vocals|
|Scott Vestal||banjo, backing vocals|
|Tim O'Brien||lead guitar, banjo, backing vocals|
|Mike Bub||bass, backing vocals|
|Mark Howard||guitar, mandolin, backing vocals|
|Jelly Roll Johnson||harmonica|
|Russ Pahl||additional guitar, jaw harp|
|Miles Miller||additional percussion, backing vocals|
|Willie Nelson||lead guitar on "Juanita"|
- Ol' Dood (Part I)
- One In The Saddle, One On The Ground
- Played Out
- Juanita (feat. Willie Nelson)
- Go In Peace
- Ol' Dood (Part II)