Generally speaking, it’s a pretty good idea to not confuse artists’ lives with the art they make — Miranda Lambert hasn’t killed an ex-boyfriend (so far as we know) and George Strait probably wasn’t putting out “fires” all over town. But given the context of Sturgill Simpson’s new album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth being written for and about his baby son, it’s hard to imagine the song “Oh Sarah” being intended for anyone other than his wife, who is actually named Sarah.
Simpson performed the soulful ballad on Conan last night, perching on a stool to croon the slow-burning first half. It starts like a man’s apology for being unable (or unwilling) to change: “I can’t get past the pain of what I want to say to you / I’m too old now to learn to let you in,” goes the opening verse. He owns those faults, then switches to reassuring mode with, “It’s the tender in your eyes / that keeps me safe and warm at night / from this life.” The music swells around him, the horn section matching his depth of feeling in joyous bursts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Simpson’s third full-length album, was released on April 22nd and shot to the Number One spot on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. He’ll resume his Sailor’s Tour on May 5th at the Moody Theatre in Austin, Texas.