BEST NEW COUNTRY BADASS: Sturgill Simpson at St. David's Sanctuary
You gotta love a dude who gets up on a church altar with a bunch of straight-faced honky-tonkers and begins a song, "I been spendin' all my money on weed and pills/Tryin' to write a song that'll pay the bills/But it ain't came yet so I might have to rob a bank." This, however, is no genre joke — Sturgill plays serious hard-boiled country in the Bakersfield vein of Haggard and Owens, with a double shot of bluegrass-style hot-shit picking and a 21st century attitude. After a 14-hour drive to town, his band killed, seemingly without breaking a sweat. He and his roots-minded crew seemed right at home in Austin, though they're based near Nashville. "We try not to go there too much," he deadpanned between songs, referring to ground zero of the country music industrial complex. "And we never play there."