Eric Church has a sound unlike any in country music. In fact, he does not have much of a sound at all. None of his songs seem to sound like any other, and that is part of his sound. The interesting thing about him is that he charts at all after recording "Lotta Boot Left To Fill", a song that tore apart mainstream country (I believe specifically Jason Aldean) as sing "what nobody feels". That is something that Eric does great though, he sings about what he, and others, feel and he makes the music he wants to. "Chief", his third album, is expected to debut at #1 of all albums in the US, making it his first #1 country album as well, and for good reason.
"Creepin" - Church leads the album off with a song that has a lot of rock influence, with heavy drum beats and a guitar solo that combine to steal the show. The singer is recovering from a heavy night of drinking after being left in a hurry by the woman he loves. He is trying to move forward, but no matter how hard he tries, the memories catch up with him: "Head for the future/ Run from the past/ Hide from the mirror/ Live in a glass/ What dreams forget the whiskey remembers/ Just like molasses in late December/ Just Creepin'"
Put A Drink In My Hand - In what is sure to be a bar anthem along the lines of Dierks Bentley's "Am I The Only One", the singer has been working hard all week for nothing, and is ready to party, as long as they "put a drink in (his) hand". The song does not stand out, as it is a common theme for country music, but it is still a fun tune and I would bet it being released as a single next summer.
Keep On - If Aerosmith made a country song, it would probably be "Keep On", everything from the guitar to the way it is sung shouts that influence. Incidentally, it is one of my favorite songs on the track. "Keep On" tells the story of the girl he is going to pick up, her guy who is going to fight him because of it, and the morning after deciding if he is going to call in sick if they "Keep on lookin' at me that way". The chorus even sounds like Steven Tyler is a guest singer.
Like Jesus Does - Church slows the album down for a love ballad, much along the same theme as "Guys Like Me" from his debut album "Sinners Like Me". The singer is broken, beat down, a sinner, and far from perfect, but his woman's love for him is unconditional: "All the crazy in my dreams/ Both my broken wings/ Every single piece of everything I am/ Yeah, she knows the main I ain't/ She forgives me when I can't/ And the devil, man, no he don't stand a chance/ Cause she loves me like Jesus does"
Hungover & Hard Up - In another twist that shows Church's diversity of style comes the tropical-influenced "Hungover & Hard Up". The song is a lot like "Creepin" in theme and, while it is not bad, among all the other songs, it is easily forgettable.
Homeboy - The first single off of "Chief", the song reminds us of how different life can be if you make the wrong choices. The singer tells of his brother, who instead of being the country boy working on the farm where they grew up, is running the streets and bouncing in and out of jail. The chorus is a plea for his brother to return, especially in light of their parents failing health: "If you don't ever do anything else for me, just do this for me brother/ Come on home, boy" Enjoy the video:
Country Music Jesus - I think this is my favorite track on the album, picking up where "Lotta Boot Left To Fill" left off on his previous effort "Carolina". The song talks about how country music is broken, and they need someone to come fix it, "Preachin' from the book of Johnny Cash/ A sheep among the wolves there standin' tall/ We need a country music Jesus/ to come and save us all". The chorus has distinct gospel roots, as you would expect, to offset the heavy guitar riff that runs through the verses. The song may never be a hit, but it is a great look at where country is and used to be.
Jack Daniels - Once again, Church has turned to the bottle to solve his women woes, but this one has a bit of unique sound to it that sets it apart. Church has a reputation for being tough, never backing down from a fight, but as soon as the memory of lost love turned its head, "Jack Daniels kicked my ass again last night". The song definitely has some solid guitar-picking though, that makes a solid song from start to end.
Springsteen - This song could easily be compared to Taylor Swift's song, "Tim McGraw", but for an older crowd. Like Swift, Church is remembering young love, and associating it with a famous artist, in this case, Bruce Springsteen. I am sure this song is going to bring back memories for many of Eric's fans, especially those older than I, and it is a great late night cruising song to sing along to.
I'm Gettin' Stoned - This time, alcohol just might not do it to recover from the news he just read, his ex just got married. The song is a fun play on the words for wedding rings and getting high: "Read it in the paper/ Marked the date on my wall/ To remind myself to celebrate/ The day I lose it all/ They made plans to be together/ I made plans to be alone/ She got a rock/ I'm gettin' stoned".
Over When It's Over - Eric Church must have serious problems holding on to a woman, or he is struggling with the same one for the whole album, because he closes the album where he left off, trying to get over her. The song is definitely easy to sing along to, but by the time it rolls around on the album, you are ready for a new theme.
Overall, "Chief" is up there with my previous review of Justin Moore's "Outlaws Like Me" as the best things to come out in the country genre this year. The only thing that leaves this album short of a perfect score is the worn out theme of getting over a love that populates over half of the songs. Musically, the album is fantastic, and no two songs sound the same. Eric Church has truly created a unique sound that he can call his. 9.5/10
Sorry it took so long to get this one up, been in the field and I am trying to make time.