Sturgill Simpson has earned a reputation as a throwback to the Seventies’ Outlaw Movement in country music, and for his latest video, the Kentucky-born singer-songwriter takes a 1988 dance pop tune by When in Rome, “The Promise,” and sprinkles the Top 15 hit with a heavenly helping of Outlaw stardust. Think Waylon Jennings meets “Help Me Make It Through the Night.”
Instead of chugging along to a disco beat, Simpson’s pleading vocal delivery on “The Promise” builds and swells, as the clip turns slowly from scratchy black-and-white to color, portraying the singer, in the words of NPR Music, “as a struggling light in a murky void.”
However, no matter how many music critics would wish to apply that same description to Simpson’s place in country music, it remains something he refuses to accept for himself, especially at the expense of those in the mainstream.
“A lot of journalists, it feels like they want to lure me into being the poster boy, and talk shit about modern country, and I just don’t have anything to really offer there,” Simpson told Rolling Stone Country. “Because, fortunately, I’ve never pursued that side of the industry, which means I never had the opportunity to be screwed over or have any of these horror stories that you hear about. So for me to sit and talk about that stuff would be insulting to people who have, and extremely naïve.”
“The Promise” is the latest release from Simpson’s sophomore album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. On July 14th, the musician makes his network television debut on The Late Show With David Letterman, and his upcoming tour schedule includes a series of dates with Zac Brown Band.