Sturgill Simpson and Willie Nelson unite for a collaboration on Simpson’s new album, The Ballad of Dood and Juanita. "Juanita" is a charming love song from the perspective of Dood, a "larger-than-life" figure, inspired by Simpson's grandfather, who must embark on a quest to rescue his wife, Juanita, after she's kidnapped by a bandit named Seamus McClure.

"Juanita, when I found you, I was nearly at my end," Simpson sings over fiddles and romantically strumming guitars. "So hold on, Juanita, I'll find you again."

The Ballad of Dood and Juanita, out Friday (Aug. 20), in Simpson’s words, is “a story — not a collection of songs that tell a story, but an actual story, front to back.” That story tells “a simple tale of either redemption or revenge” through the lens of its two focal characters, set in the rich setting of Kentucky in 1862.

“I’ve only ever really been interested in concept albums,” says Simpson, who cites Nelson's Red Headed Stranger as an influence on his new album. With The Ballad of Dood and Juanita, Simpson again returns to the country, bluegrass and mountain music that he opted for on his recent Cuttin’ Grass collections, including influences from gospel and a cappella.

"Juanita" isn’t the first collaboration between Simpson and Nelson, who teamed up during Nelson’s 2018 Outlaw Music Festival Tour for an onstage rendition of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” In late August, they’ll hit the road together again, for the 2021 festival, accompanied by Lucinda Williams, Chris Stapleton, Tyler Childers, the Avett Brothers, and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.

Nelson, of course, has Red Headed Stranger in his catalog, but Simpson is no stranger to heady concept albums, either: his futuristic release Metamodern Sounds in Country Music was nominated for Best Americana Album at the 2015 Grammy Awards, while 2017’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is structured as a letter to his infant son and won the Grammy for Best Country Album.

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