Sturgill Simpson is probably our best modern progenitor of outlaw country. Across three excellent records, Simpson’s proven himself a master of that much-celebrated but rarely duplicated brand of ruthlessly honest, intelligent, funny and tuneful traditional American music. Last year, he kicked up a firestorm by blasting the Academy Of Country Music for co-opting Merle Haggard’s name for an award following his death, when Haggard himself had nothing but contempt for the institution. Afterward, Simpson said he expected to be “blackballed” from the industry for his comments, which turned out to be sort of true: His record A Sailor’s Guide To Earth was nominated for (and won) numerous Grammys but didn’t get a single nomination from the CMA awards.
This year, perhaps in response to the CMA’s brief policy banning guns-related questions, Simpson went busking outside the awards, collecting money for the ACLU alongside a sign that said, “I don’t take requests but I take questions about anything you want to talk about because fascism sucks.” He broadcasted the whole thing on Facebook Live, which you can watch below, and you really should: It’s a great example of his low-key charm, intelligence, and willingness to say exactly what the fuck he thinks.
Early on he’s asked to give an impromptu awards speech, and it’s a doozy:
Nobody needs a machine gun, and that’s coming from a guy who owns quite a few guns. Gay people should have the right to be happy and live their life any way they want to and get married if they want to without fear of getting drug down the road behind a pickup truck. Black people are probably tired of getting shot in the streets and being enslaved by the industrial prison complex. Hegemony and fascism is alive and well in Nashville, Tennessee. Thank you very much.
Later, when asked about his feelings on our standing president, he is equally direct:
He’s a fascist fucking pig and I’m not afraid to say that. Anybody who’s still supporting that guy can’t be anything in my mind but an ignorant fucking bigot. So there it is. Anybody that’s surprised to hear me say that is going to unfollow me or stop listening to my record was probably not listening that close anyway.
He later wisecracks that somebody walking by has got a better chance of getting into the awards show than he does, and shouts out Run The Jewels and Angel Olsen as artists he’s listening to a lot lately. He also raised $13 busking for 45 minutes, which isn’t half bad, all things considered.