REVIEW: Eric Church – Chief

Artist: Eric Church
Album: Chief
Genre: Alt-Country
Label: EMI

Many people are quick to misjudge me, for whatever reason they think I’m just another angry metal kid, that thinks all other music is inferior, I’m not quite sure what makes people think that, maybe it’s all the tattoos, or possibly the fact that, all said, I really do listen to a lot of metal and hardcore, but that’s not the point. My favorite kind of music – and this comes as a surprise to everyone – are the bluesy, alt-country style bands; the best album of all time is actually Exile On Main Street by The Rolling Stones, and I accept that as a fact, not an opinion. Not so deep down, I’m just a big hillbilly really, I love blues, bluegrass, various forms of country, and other music of that sort. I even own a banjo. Of course, I despise that “sorority girl country”, as I’ve deemed it, which is really just some dude in a cowboy hat talking about pick up trucks, barbequing, and being a redneck; three of my favorite things in the world mind you, but I don’t feel the need to sing about them, nor can I figure out why anyone else feels compelled to do so, other than for the easy money that can apparently be made from the country music crowd. For years the label “country” has been spoken in whispers because of such stigmas that have come to follow it, luckily good, quality country is finding it’s place in music once more. Even still, these stigmas leave artists like Eric Church; quality musicians, not looking for a place in the hearts of middle aged women wearing cowboy boots that were probably made in China, at a loss, trying to label themselves things such as alt-rock, when that just simply isn’t the case. His new album Chief is undeniable proof that Eric Church is country, through and through. But country more in the vein of Hank Williams Jr, than Kenny Chesney; with a slightly darker, alt-country vibe, as opposed to the loathsome sorority girl country.

One fool-proof way into my heart is to write a song in tribute to the good ol’ No. 7, before I even listened to the album, I looked at the tracklist and saw “Jack Daniels”; “Good man”, I thought, “I like this Eric Church fella”. That, along with another song named after The Boss himself, and Church is already in my good graces, before I even pressed play. And thankfully, both of those tracks paid appropriate tribute to Jack and The Boss. I don’t think I could have continued listening if they didn’t. It’s not all about song titles that pull at my rather simple heartstrings though, songs like “Country Music Jesus” should act as an example to other so called country musicians out there; Johnny Cash references, driving banjo lines, and a gospel choir right at the end, it’s the perfect down-south jam. Now of course, to those that don’t really listen to much country, some of these songs may blend in with the average pop-country, but there is much more to Eric Church’s music, there is a subtle musicianship that is very impressive, and most importantly, modest, which is the entire point of country music in itself. Church manages to blend country with perfectly used blues influences, in a way that few can pull off without sounding contrived.

I can’t really ignore the fact that this style of music doesn’t really go with most of the music news that this website covers, and I am also fully willing to admit that most people still have an unfaltering, through rather unjustified, bias against country music, but discounting this album on such pretenses would be a huge mistake, it has much more than substance than is typically implied by the term “country music”. And I think it’s safe to say that sorority girls from South Carolina aren’t going to be playing beer pong with Eric Church blaring in the background any time soon. And that’s as big a compliment as I can offer any musician. Even more than that though, I can say with absolutely no shame that Chief is going straight into the CD player in my truck, and it’s not going anywhere for quite a long time.

Reviewed by: Mike Hogan

James Shotwell
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