One of my favorite country songs of the year isn't even a country song, or at least it wasn't originally, when "The Promise" was released in 1988 by the British new wave group When In Rome. Or, actually, maybe I'm wrong, and by some feat of alchemy, Sturgill Simpson's history-rewriting rendition reveals that the original, a truly pained confessional, had all the makings of country all along. In Simpson's GEN F profile in The FADER—he was the first country artist I think we've ever put in the magazine—I wrote of the song, "His version sounds older than the original, more elemental, with a straightforward, acoustic swing that’s naturally suited for heartbreak. The cover seems to say: country is where honest expression belongs, and where it always has." NPR premiered the video today. Promise you'll stick around to his yell at 3:40; nothing tops it. Simpson's essential Metamodern Sounds in Country Music LP is out now.
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