Sturgill Simpson made his Farm Aid debut this weekend, bringing an expanded band – including three horn players, as well as longtime partners Laur Joamets, Miles Miller and Bobby Emmett – to a Virginia amphitheater thirty minutes outside of Washington, D.C.
Simpson swelled his band’s ranks earlier this year, looking for a larger lineup to resurrect the thickly-stacked arrangements from his soul- and R&B-inspired album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, in a live setting. During his Farm Aid set, though, Simpson also tackled a handful of older songs, resurrecting the tunes as big, brassy barn-burners. Above, the group tackles “Life of Sin,” punctuating the song with rhythmic blasts from the horn players and a barroom piano solo from Emmett.
“The boys and me [are] still working on the sound,” Simpson barks in the short clip. That line packs a renewed punch these days, highlighting the differences between A Sailor’s Guide to Earth and Simpson’s previous album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. The guys are, indeed, still retooling their sound, adding Stax-worthy horns and funky, Shaft-friendly arrangements to Simpson’s songwriting. That makes this live performance of “Life of Sin” a work in progress – something that’s subject to change during the next tour, perhaps – but it hardly lessens the band’s blow.