In October, Sturgill Simpson surprise-released a double album of bluegrass versions of his songs, Cuttin' Grass Vol 1 - The Butcher Shoppe Sessions. He's now followed that with a second surprise release, Cuttin' Grass Vol 2 - The Cowboy Arms Sessions. Like the first volume, it's bluegrass versions of his songs recorded with a group of ace session players, The Hillbilly Avengers, this time pulling mainly on his 2016 album A Sailor's Guide to Earth, plus three songs from his 2013 debut High Top Mountain, "Jesus Boogie" from his old band Sunday Valley, and two previously unreleased tracks.
One of the unreleased tracks, "Hobo Cartoon," was co-written by the late Merle Haggard. "We got to know each other in the last two years of his life," Sturgill says. "He would call a lot, we’d talk on the phone. When he got sick, he was still writing songs, even in his hospital bed. This just popped up one day in the in box—he sent me these lyrics in a text and he said ‘From one railroad man to another.’ After four or five years, it was time to cowboy up and give this thing a go. So I finished writing the song, and it just felt weird to imagine it with some big eight-piece band. Merle loved bluegrass, so it felt like a proper homage, really exposed and stripped down to the root of something. Maybe I’ll recut it with a hard country band one day, but it just seemed like a beautiful way to end this chapter.”