Earlier this month, before A Sailor’s Guide to Earth rowed itself to the top of the country, folk and rock charts during its first week of release, Sturgill Simpson and his seven-piece touring ensemble visited Bob Clearmountain’s L.A. studio to preview the entire album for radio station KCRW.
Above, the band kicks into the album’s lead-off track, “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog),” for one of the song’s very first public performances, with Simpson setting down his acoustic guitar and rebranding himself as an old-school crooner.
A love song for his newborn son, “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)” kicks off as an orchestral ballad and finishes up as a peppy soul song. Laur Joamets, whose electric guitar helped give 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music its psychedelic stomp, plays pedal steel this time around, while a three-piece horn section adds blasts of brass to the tune’s second half. Lush and layered, the whole performance is a team effort, relying heavily on the beefed-up band that Simpson has put together for his upcoming tour. Even so, Simpson is still the head sailor of this ship, his voice alternating between a lullabying lilt and a backwoods bark.