Sturgill Simpson has announced the coming release of his fifth official studio album, The Ballad of Dood & Juanita, out now on CD and streaming platforms. A vinyl release is set to follow on December 3rd.
The Ballad of Dood & Juanita was written and recorded in less than one week on a 100-year-old Ditson guitar and recorded with the same “Hillbilly Avengers” band featured on Cuttin’ Grass, the bluegrass reimagining of Simpson’s recorded catalog released in two volumes in late 2020. Of note, the album features a guest appearance by Willie Nelson on “Juanita”.
“I just wanted to write a story—not a collection of songs that tell a story, but an actual story, front to back,” Sturgill Simpson said of the new record, which he also called “a simple tale of either redemption or revenge” and a “rollercoaster ride through all the styles of traditional country and bluegrass and mountain music that [he loves], including gospel and a cappella.”
The titular characters, Dood and Juanita, take their names from Simpson’s grandparents, though the story is set one hundred years before the real Dood and Juanita were born—”a tale of Appalachian revenge,” a new Rolling Stone feature notes. “He’d always pictured that this story would be a Western, but it occurred to him ‘that’s not where I’m from,’ Simpson says. ‘I thought, I’ll write an Eastern.'”
At that time, he was busy embodying the “cowboy” mindset necessary for such a tale, both while living on his secluded land in Tennessee and while acting in the new Martin Scorsese Western, Killers of the Flower Moon, in Oklahoma. “I guess I had just been living in the head of this fucking cowboy for the last eight months,” Sturgill told Rolling Stone. “And the darkness that came with that.”
With family, acting, and his musical endeavors falling into place, Simpson remains open to following the muse towards what feels right for his next step. That said, he looks at The Ballad of Dood & Juanita with a measure of creative finality. As Simpson told Rolling Stone,
“This is the last Sturgill record. … I always said there would be five, and I wondered if I’d go back on that. But it really has cemented every step of the way how much I don’t want to carry all that weight. Going forward, I’d like to form a proper band with some people who I really love and respect musically and be a part of something truly democratic in terms of creativity. Not having to stand up there behind my name would allow me to be even more vulnerable, in a way.”
He already has a few people in mind, and he’s mulling over band names.
The Ballad of Dood & Juanita, the first album on new material from Simpson since 2019’s acclaimed Sound & Fury, marks a shift back toward traditional country for Sturgill following his art-rock detour on the 2019 effort and his bluegrass tangent on Cuttin’ Grass.
Listen to The Ballad of Dood & Juanita via Spotify below.
Sturgill Simpson – The Ballad of Dood & Juanita – Full Album
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Sturgill Simpson – The Ballad of Dood & Juanita – Track Listing
2. “Ol’ Dood” (part I)
3. “One in the Saddle, One on the Ground”
5. “Played Out”
7. “Juanita” (featuring Willie Nelson)
8. “Go in Peace”
10. “Ol’ Dood” (Part II)
Simpson recently announced a run of three concerts at Nashville, TN’s famed Ryman Auditorium set to take place on November 18th, 19th, and 20th. Head to the venue website for more info on tickets to the Thursday, 11/18; Friday, 11/19; and Saturday, 11/20 Sturgill Simpson Ryman Auditorium shows.
For a full list of upcoming Sturgill Simpson tour dates, head here.
[Originally published 7/21/21]