For the first time ever, we’re sharing the next three VMP Country titles coming for members of VMP Country. These are the albums you’ll receive if you sign up for VMP Country in April, May and June 2021. Read below to get the scoop:
April: Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie
The second ever VMP Country Record of the Month is Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie, being reissued here on vinyl for the first time in more than a decade. This was the album that found Nelson finally free of Nashville’s strict dictates, and allowed him to morph into the Willie Nelson of legend. This edition is remastered AAA from the original master tapes, and comes on gunsmoke vinyl, with a new Listening Notes booklet from VMP’s Classics and Country Director Andrew Winistorfer, who had this to say about the album in his liner notes:
“It’s not until his 16th album, [Shotgun Willie] that Outlaw Willie emerges: cocoon-like, ready to break every rule of country stardom. He was fed up, and done doing things like he had been told to do them, done playing by Nashville’s rules and done being forced into the Countrypolitan sound as dictated by his producers at RCA. He absconded to Austin, Texas, bro’d out with a new generation of country songwriters trying to get back to what’s real and pondered his next move. At 39, he considered retiring, saying to hell with it and heading off into the sunset.
“What he’d do next would change country music forever, and help launch an entire movement. It’d make him a star, and into the Willie Nelson we all now know and love. And it started with Shotgun Willie.”
This Record of the Month is VMP’s fourth Willie Nelson project, and figures to not be the last.
“I’ve spent more time thinking about Willie Nelson than maybe any artist in my life,” says Winistorfer. “Doing this album specifically — since it’s really the first time Willie’s music went full outlaw country — was one of my goals for VMP Country when it was just an idea we had on a whiteboard. I’m so excited to share this second Country Record of the Month with our members.”
May: Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
In May, the VMP Country Record of the Month is a new exclusive colored edition of Sturgill Simpson’s breakthrough landmark LP, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, the album that took him from an obscure alt-country traditionalist to a genre-defining star, which comes with brand new Listening Notes. Here’s an excerpt:
“[The honesty] is the crux of the greatness of Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and Sturgill Simpson writ large: like you and me, he’s someone just trying to figure it all out, who feels lost and unsure. Metamodern Sounds opens with “Turtles All The Way Down,” a song alluding to a metaphor for how the only certain thing in existence is that there is a cause for everything, but tracking the original cause is nay impossible — and it only gets headier and deeper from there. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is an album as a series of questions: Why does it seem like the lot in life for some people is suffering? What’s the point of all of this? Is making art still valuable if you spend your time woodshedding to no one? Do you work because you love it, or are you on a conveyor belt you can’t see and can’t control? If the point of musical stardom is a never-ending ride on the road, is it even something worth pining for?
“Metamodern Sounds was the breakthrough album for Simpson, the album that would open the path for an onerous major label deal, Grammy nominations for Best Album, anime films, arena tours and some of the most meaningful, impactful music to draw from the American songbook of the last 10 years. But before that could happen, he had to bottom out, quit music, work on the literal railroad and come back to Nashville in his mid-30s, full of uncertainty, but sure that his music would see him through.”
It is likely that VMP Country will remain sold out with the release of Shotgun Willie and only be available to people who signed up for the first month, but Simpson fans who’d like to get this Record of the Month will be able to April 27 when more spots open up.
June: Merle Haggard And The Strangers’ I’m A Lonesome Fugitive
Finishing out this quarter of VMP Country, we go from Sturgill Simpson to his main influence: Merle Haggard. Our June Country Record of the Month is Merle Haggard and the Strangers’ breakout LP, I’m A Lonesome Fugitive, the album that served as the ex-convict’s breakthrough on the country charts, and the album that made his later ’60s success and superstardom possible. It’s here on vinyl for the first time in more than 30 years, and is remastered AAA from the original tapes and pressed on exclusive color vinyl with new Listening Notes. Here’s an excerpt from those:
“Merle Haggard started running before he was 10, around when his father died, and basically didn’t stop till he left his mortal coil, age 79. He spent, give or take, close to 70 years in various stages of lighting out of town, of barnstorming, of riding the rails, of killing them and leaving. You know that 10,000 hours thing? Merle put in more than his 10,000 hours on the run. As such, with the exception of Jack Kerouac, Merle Haggard was the poet laureate of the road, that symbol of endless possibility, endless adventure and endless strife. Merle’s songbook is a testament to that running, the feeling like you just escaped some trap, the feeling that you don’t know what’s next, but you know goddamn well it’s not behind you. He’d later become famous as a voice of the so-called Silent Majority, yet another thing he felt shackled by, but Merle Haggard’s lasting impact on country music cannot be overstated: Merle captured and defined, better than anyone before or since, that attitude of escape in country music. The music was always going somewhere, and Merle was able to mine that voyage over the course of a nearly 50-year career.
“Haggard’s — and his band, The Strangers’ — breakthrough LP, and his fourth overall, I’m a Lonesome Fugitive, lays all these themes out bare, giving him not only a career, but something to run toward and for.”
I’m A Lonesome Fugitive will be available for new signups starting May 26.