Every day when I pick up my 14-year-old daughter from school, we crank up the radio for a quick game of “Name the Artist.” I pause most often on what I have defined as the classics from the late 60s, 70s and 80s.  The rules are simple: she cannot procure help from her cellphone.

Yet I do offer subtle hints…

“He was a master of the flaming guitar! Headlined at Woodstock.”

“He’s Canadian. King of 80s love songs.”

“Her video was the second one ever broadcast on MTV. She could rock a tube of lipstick.”

“He is my favorite shade of purple.”

What used to start with an eye roll and an automatic reply of “Journey” now is given the attention every School of Rock fan demands. Even the little kids in the backseat are getting in on the action of the game. The six-year-old knows a good Led Zeppelin track when she hears it. The eight-year-old grins with delight when she beats her sister in being the first to yell out “Queen” when her mom channels the great Freddie Mercury as she is belting out Bohemian Rhapsody behind the wheel of the Suburban.

And one of my proudest Mama-moments was when my sixteen-year-old paused the channel surfing on the radio because Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer was playing. She knew every word.

I may or may not get tearful just thinking about it.


I have songs for each season of my life. My jukebox is full and eclectic.

Sounds of the classics of country music, vinyl and eight-track, played from the console stereo in my parent’s living room. My mom was a huge Marty Robbins fan.

Southern rock, classic rock, funk, disco, and the sweet flow of the slow skate provided the tempo for my Friday and Saturday nights at the Rollerdome.

Big 80’s rock blasted over the T-tops of my IROC-Z. I unashamedly admit to purchasing tickets to Poison, Guns N Roses, Def Leppard, Van Halen, and AC/DC.


My playlist has been long and adventurous.

Aerosmith. The Beatles. Santana. Elvis. Fleetwood Mac. Amos Lee. Dolly Parton. Frank Sinatra. Hootie and the Blowfish. The Steve Miller Band. Elton John.  Chet Atkins. The Go-Go’s. Bob Marley. Marvin Gaye. Johnny Lang. Pearl Jam. Lynyrd Skynyrd. The Doors. Loretta and Conway. Willie and Waylon.

And The Judd’s. Wynonna Judd, in my opinion, could sing the phone book and I would listen.

I’ve seen the Rolling Stones and the Eagles in Raleigh. Shared my beloved Dean Dome in Chapel Hill with Eric Clapton and Billy Joel. And then Greensboro, sweet Greensboro, brought me mere inches from Bruce Springsteen.

Recently I’ve added in a little Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell and Old Crow Medicine Show to the mix. The Avett Brothers, Ed Sheeran, and Panic at the Disco, can thank my children for their spin on my digital turntable.

Yes, I love the music that can take me back to the places and faces that have loved me well, especially the ones that have healed the breaks and blows and sorrows of my heart. Certain tunes are held in a tender place.

Which leads me to a newfound, heart-string pulling soundtrack that I affectionately call “The Gospel According to Sturgill Simpson.”

I remember our introduction well. It was a few months after my dad’s passing.

A February evening, 2017.

The Grammy’s were being broadcast in the background of my kitchen floor sweeping, lunch packing, laundry folding, and toy landmine pickup. Somewhere in the middle of my routine school night chaos, I heard the big band brass, the magic of the guitar, and a voice of velvet, if velvet ever had a voice. The assembly line of sandwiches was left on the kitchen table as I floated on a mesmerizing waft of invisible smoke into the living room, reminiscent of an old Saturday morning cartoon.

There on stage stood a suited Sturgill Simpson, accompanied by the soulful Dap-Kings, belting out All Around You, a song about hard times in life, letting go of the pain, and embracing the power of a universal heart.


WHO WAS THIS GUY? Wait a minute…Grammy for Best Country Album of the Year? Sturgill Simpson? I had never even heard him on the radio and he had just won a Grammy?

I was beginning to think I had lost my mojo.

In the days that followed, I became fast friends with Google, Spotify, and Youtube in all things Sturgill. I watched videos and podcasts, and I read articles to learn more about the man and his music. Whether it was coincidence, a sprinkling of fairy dust, or a gift from the Divine, I was changed.

I rocked along with Sturgill Simpson for hours while stringing and canning green beans last summer. I often listen while I cook dinner and wash dishes.  I caught myself singing loud and proud on the treadmill at the YMCA. His three CD’s are constants in my Suburban while I am in the school pickup lines. Last weekend in the absence of the eye-rolls of my seven kids, Mama sang live with Sturgill from the eighth row in Charlotte.  My husband, who likes him more for how his music makes me happy, is now a fan.

Sturgill Simpson is an open kaleidoscope of sound, word and thought.

Just. Like. Me.

His sound is a smooth drink of late 60’s & early 70’s country, blues, soul, rock, and even a little alternative edge on the rim. I hear sounds of helicopters and rattlesnakes, trains and crashing waves, lullabies and love stories…. all before he even utters a word.

The sound of Sturgill Simpson may not be for everyone. His lyrics are a complex landscape of deeply personal storytelling, sometimes mixed with language not meant for ears that are easily offended.   Among them are ponderings upon theology, mind-altering drugs, the military, and the gravity of political power.

Sturgill has schooled me on some.

I have explored others on my own.

Yet the irresistible theme of his poetic weavings about life, love, and legacy reeled me in.

I hear the affection for his grandparents, and the Kentucky coal-mining town that gave him roots. I hear what the love of a wife sounds like. And his third album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, was recorded as a letter of sorts from a father to his young son about the journeys of birth, life and death. It is a letter worth listening to.

In the musical autobiography of Sturgill Simpson there are lessons about letting go of egos, slowing down, making amends for our mistakes, and well living this life before our time runs out.

Be kind. Give a little. Show warmth to everyone. Find a little light within.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Which brings me back to All Around You… that song I first heard Sturgill Simpson perform on the Grammy’s. I’m still not sure if it makes me cry because it reminds me of words that perhaps my dad would want me to hear, or are they the words I long to say to my own children?

Maybe, just maybe, these are words we all need to hear from someone above much greater than any of us.


There will be days
When the sun won’t shine
When it seems like the whole world is against you
Don’t be afraid
Life is unkind
You can let go of the pain if you choose to
Cause time slips away
Skies fall apart
Revealing to all
A universal heart
Glowing, flowing, all around you
There will be nights that go on forever
Like you’re long-lost at sea
Never to be found
Just know in your heart
That we’re always together
And long after I’m gone
I’ll still be around
Cause our bond is eternal
And so is love
God is inside you
All around you
And up above
Growing, showing, you the way
Cause time slips away
Skies fall apart
Revealing to all
A universal heart
Glowing, flowing, all around you
Songwriters: John Sturgill Simpson         All Around You lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing LLC


Thank you Sturgill Simpson. Simply thank you for music that indeed takes me back to the places and faces that have loved me well, especially the ones that have healed the breaks and blows and sorrows of my heart.

8 thoughts on “Playlist

  1. Loved this! Most of all, thank you for posting that pic of your car! How many places did we go in that car? Will have to look for pics of my burgundy Grand Am…Steph’s red Chevy. Donna’s brown car & Joy’s Gray Chevy with the missing side mirror (somewhere to be found in the old McDonald’s parking lot)! I could go on and on. We did sing our hearts out to some music! ❤️


      1. I remember the nickname we had for that car. 😉

        I also remember being with you at several of those concerts …

        Love you, my Poola Hoop


  2. Another great read. Even though I didn’t know you back in your IRoc days I feel we’ve been friends a lifetime. Thanks for the trip down memory lane and I’ll definitely be checking out Sturgill. Much love! 💜


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