Last Friday, a Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album and, this week, an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers: It’s been a solid few days for Sturgill Simpson. But then again, it’s been a pretty good year. Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music just took the Number Two spot on Rolling Stone’s 40 Best Country Albums of 2014 and Number 18 overall, selling out multiple headlining dates into the New Year.
For Seth Meyers, Simpson played, for the first time on television, his cover of When in Rome’s 1988 hit “The Promise” — well, their only hit, to be exact. Replacing the tinny, fluorescent disco-synth beats with weepy slide guitar, Simpson transforms the song into a contemplative Countrypolitan ode to eternal love that sounds way more like Owen Bradleys’ Quonset Hut than Studio 54. It’s like a hidden Charlie Rich gem lost in a time warp.
Turns out, the lyrics to “The Promise” are pretty sweet, particularly when filtered through Simpson’s stellar voice that somehow seems to possess its own self-contained reverb. And they mirror the overarching “love’s the only thing that ever saved my life” theme of the Metamodern album. Sadly, the dance hit was about as good as it got for When in Rome — the rest of their self-titled debut fell pretty flat, and they disbanded soon after.
Coincidentally enough, original When in Rome keyboard player Michael Floreale relocated from England to Dallas, Texas, in 2006, where he now owns a studio and composes for film and television. On his website, a few “feel good acoustic Americana compositions” can be found, so maybe the country-New Wave connection isn’t that out there, after all.
Simpson, meanwhile, is working on new material. “We’re already starting another one — I feel like we could make three records this year,” his producer Dave Cobb told Rolling Stone Country. “Maybe he doesn’t release all three, but we should make them. We’re already doing something totally different and it will probably make a lot of people mad.” These days, though, it seems like there’s little Simpson could do to inspire ire, short of ceasing to make music at all. And knowing his desire to constantly be chugging forward, don’t expect a cover of Pseudo Echo’s “Funky Town” anytime soon.