Cuttin' Grass, Vol. 2: The Cowboy Arms Sessions

Sturgill Simpson

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Cuttin' Grass, Vol. 2: The Cowboy Arms Sessions Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Arriving two months after the first volume, Cuttin' Grass, Vol. 2: The Cowboy Arms Sessions is cut from the same cloth as its predecessor -- it is largely devoted to Sturgill Simpson revisiting his catalog, reinterpreting his songs as straight bluegrass -- yet it is a distinct album in its own right. Some of this is due to Simpson recording at a different studio this time -- at the Cowboy Arms Hotel, a Nashville institution founded by "Cowboy" Jack Clement -- but much of it is due to Simpson choosing to focus on "personal" songs, many first unveiled on the Grammy-winning 2016 LP A Sailor's Guide to Earth. These tunes weather bluegrass interpretations very well, often sounding as if they were designed to be played this way, and they're buttressed with a clutch of earlier songs, including a revival of the rousing "You Can Have the Crown" and the unreleased high lonesome "Tennessee." The highlight of this batch is "Hobo Cartoon," a song Simpson wrote years ago with Merle Haggard, a wistful bit of nostalgia that functions as a passing of the torch of sorts. It all adds up to a soulful and absorbing record, one that plays off the strengths of the Butcher Shoppe Sessions and deepens the entire bluegrass revisions project.

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