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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eric Church - Chief

Eric Church - Chief
2011, EMI Records Nashville

Three full length albums into his career and Eric Church already has several top-20 singles to his name, a gold album, and a new album, Chief, that has already hit #1 on the US Album Charts and US Country charts.  Church almost gave up music at one point, encouraged by the father of a fiancĂ©e to take a job in the corporate world.  In the end, Church spurned the boardroom, and romance, and headed to Nashville.  Now on top of the country world with Chief, Church wouldn't have it any other way.

Chief opens with "Creeping", a dark and entertaining outlaw country tune with pure rock attitude.  The song is as catchy as anything you've heard on CMT in a long time, and features a muscular guitar-based sound that's ready to cross over to rock stations as well.  "Drink In My Hand" is a modern take on the old adage that a way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  This one is destined to be a bar/party favorite, and seems a likely candidate to storm up the country charts if released as a single.  "Keep On" sticks with the catchy outlaw country motif, with an arrangement that sounds like borrows heavily from Garth Brooks' "Rodeo".  Church shows his softer side with the third-person love ballad "Like Jesus Does", employing a 1960's-style pop/country sound that works surprisingly well.  The songwriting here is crisp and clean, and Church hits you with a sweet melody that rolls over you like water.

"Homeboy" is an attempt by the brother who stayed behind to reach out to a prodigal son who left home under a veil of acrimony and violence.  It's a classic tale told in the lingo of the day, and shows a surprising depth that one might not guess from some of Church's darker, more rock-oriented numbers.  "Country Music Jesus" is a call for revival in country music.  Elements of rock, country and gospel blend here in a lighthearted and infectious tune you'll be humming for days.  Church pays fealty to his betters on "Jack Daniels", citing one opponent who always leaves him worse for the wear.  "Springsteen" is a song of remembrance of teenage summer nights and young love.  Melodies are the focal point that brings it all back, in this case the melodies of Springsteen's 1980's pop radio heyday.  Church explores the emotions of finding your ex is engaged in the angry-yet-infectious "I'm Getting Stoned".  Church's arrangement is angry, roiling rock and roll, and is laced with lyrics full of dark humor and bile.  Chief leaves the stage with the enigmatic and curt ending of "Over When It's Over", a matter of fact post-mortem that deals more with the facts than post-relationship analysis.  The rather abrupt ending to the song will leave some listeners hanging and waiting for a full resolution, but you'll have to wait for the next album to hear more.

Not since Garth Brooks has one artist so completely mixed an appreciation and respect for country music with distinctive pop sensibility and rock and roll attitude.  Chief reaches across the boundaries of country and rock and roll, crumples them into a scraggly ball and tosses them aside.  Eric Church goes where he wants, evoking dark thoughts, honest, confused emotions and a sense that life is lived in the honest margins of human imperfection.  Chief is a smashing success, due all the commercial success is it currently experiencing.  Don't miss this one.  Chief is a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Eric Church at or  Chief is available from as a CD or Download, and is also available via iTunes.

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