Release Date: Jul 26, 2011
Record label: EMI Music Distribution
"Drink in My Hand." "Hungover & Hard Up." "Jack Daniels." The titles tell the story on Eric Church's third album: This is country music in the rough 'n' tumble honky-tonk tradition. Church, from North Carolina, is one of Nashville's sharpest young songwriters, and on Chief the rock guitars and twangy blues are set against big hooks and finely grained storytelling. The country hit "Homeboy" is the tale of a small-town-boy-turned-wanna-be-hip-hop-thug.
Contemporary country singer and songwriter Eric Church has been on a roll since 2006. He's had a slew of charting singles and albums, won Top New Solo Vocalist at the Academy of Country Music Awards for 2010, and in early 2011, both the Caldwell County EP and "Homeboy" -- the pre-release single for Chief -- hit number 13 on the chart. That said, he hasn't reached the commercial heights -- yet -- that peers such as Jason Aldean and Justin Moore have.
This midlevel country dude, one of Nashville’s most detail-oriented songwriters, peppers his third album, Chief, with so many proper nouns — Waylon and Springsteen, Jack Daniel’s and Jesus — that it’s sometimes hard to hear ?Eric Church through all the neo-outlaw hero worship. Yet when he clears out some room for himself, as on the beautifully bleary ”Hungover & Hard Up,” the honesty of his confessions can sear: ”The hurt keeps ?calling me,” he sings over warm Muscle Shoals-style guitar. ”Come on out — we got you surrounded.” B Download These:Pun-filled ? rocker I’m Gettin’ StonedBrotherly ?lament Homeboy .
For all of his doth-protest-too-much insistence on how he’s the only “outlaw” left in Nashville and how his music is infinitely more authentic and “country” than that of any of his peers, it’s nearly impossible to get on board with Eric Church. His public persona comes across as impossibly arrogant and, given the actual quality of his recorded output to date, lacking in even a modicum of self-awareness. The title track and “Lightning” from 2006’s Sinners Like Me and “Smoke a Little Smoke” from 2009’s Carolina might be terrific songs on their own merits, but they don’t position Church as the second coming of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard that he’d like you to believe he is.
Country singer-songwriter Eric Church seems perched at the precipice of superstardom, in that delicate position of wanting widespread recognition but determined to flaunt his place on the fringes of mainstream country. On his third album, Chief, the results are often worthy of his considerable ambitions. Now a husband and soon-to-be father, you might expect Church to express that serenity and joy in songs about married bliss.