Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)
Label: Atlantic Records
Country’s most self-consciously artsy songwriter since Lyle Lovett, Simpson puts just nine songs on his third album -- and one is a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” which has been melted into a country-soul dirge with a slightly altered chorus. Elsewhere on the album, honking Stax-style brass competes with string orchestrations and psychedelic swirls in service of an intermittently nautical theme; “Sea Stories” has Simpson sailing to sundry Far East ports and watching cobra fights. His murmuring baritone rides the tide, too, when it’s not trudging wearily through the funkabilly swamp.