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To some modern country artists, the words critics are using to describe Eric Church’s third studio album may seem off-putting, but to the trailblazing mutineer and his equally passionate fans, the terms: “strange,” “aggressive,” “wild,” and “rare,” couldn’t be more complimentary. Church’s third studio album, Chief, has been buzzing as the most experiential, head-turning country album of the year.

That desire to move the needle is the very reason Church has chosen to use the successes of six Top 20 country singles (“How Bout You,” “Two Pink Lines,” and “Guys Like Me” from his 2006 critically-acclaimed debut, Sinners Like Me; “Love Your Love The Most,” “Hell On The Heart,” and “Smoke A Little Smoke” from his sophomore release Carolina) and an ACM Award for New Solo Vocalist of the Year to push the creative envelope even further with Chief. Church took a month off and went to a secluded cabin in North Carolina to reflect and write the entire album which he later recorded in Nashville with producer, Jay Joyce (Patty Griffin, Cage the Elephant), who also produced his previous two releases.


1. Creepin’ (Eric Church / Marv Green)
2. Drink In My Hand (Eric Church, Michael P. Heeney, Luke Laird)
3. Keep On (Eric Church / Ryan Tyndell)
4. Like Jesus Does (Casey Beathard / Monty Criswell)
5. Hungover & Hard Up (Eric Church / Luke Laird)
6. Homeboy (Eric Church / Casey Beathard)
7. Country Music Jesus (Eric Church / Jeremy Spillman)
8. Jack Daniels (Eric Church / Jeff Hyde / Lynn Hutton)
9. Springsteen (Eric Church / Jeff Hyde / Ryan Tyndell)
10. I’m Gettin’ Stoned (Eric Church / Jeff Hyde / Casey Beathard / Jeremy Cradey)
11. Over When It’s Over (Eric Church / Luke Laird)


The album will pick up and drop fans with its diversity. No two songs sound alike, and while some touch on themes Church addressed in previous albums — ‘Country Music Jesus’ is this album’s ‘Lotta Boot Left to Fill’ — he also covers new ground. “Drink in My Hands” and “Like Jesus Does” both have a little of the laundry list tinge to them, with the former also falling into the safe Black Crowes guitar approach, and the latter feeling like it is pandering to a constituency, but they’re not bad for mainstream fare. “Hold On” is a catchy, straight up rock song, with little to no sonic attempts to fit it into the country format.

Church has a distinctive voice, with more lyrical ambition than most. Nevertheless, Chief never lives up to any Springsteen-like ‘working man’s poet’ promise. Springsteen has a special ability to step outside himself and inhabit characters. Some of these lyrical studies, such as the hard luck guys that people Nebraska, are scary folks you only want to keep at album-song distance. Some very cleverly phrased lyrics scattered among his down home country boy/rowdy bad boy persona of storytelling. Musically, it’s not my cup of coffee. If I had to describe the audio on the album, it sounds like the producer recorded a stripped down version, a bluegrass version and a southern rock version of each song in somebody’s garage and couldn’t decide which one he wanted so he mixed them all on top of each other.

Church remains likeable and listenable. His songs don’t sound quite like the others they’re imitating. And by the album’s halfway point, he’s hitting his stride: “Hungover and Hard Up” is hangover poetry; “Jack Daniels” is a humorous morning-after song; “Springsteen,” the album’s highlight, is an ode to lost innocence. These songs in particular showcase the talent that lies at the core of Church’s music. I’d recommend the release to all new listeners, especially those that don’t like contemporary country.


“CHIEF” is out now!
Church will continue to make appearances in support of the release including upcoming shows through October on Toby Keith’s “Locked and Loaded Tour.”  For more information, please visit


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