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Eric Church’s “Mr. Misunderstood” Reviewed

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Guys Like Me” has a guy that drinks too many beers. That was before anybody had ever put beer and trucks related in songs.” That’s Eric Church in Rolling Stone, apparently he has never heard “What Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me)”.

You know how there are people in the world who you don’t know at all but just want to punch right in the nose the moment you see them? Well, I’ve always felt that way about Eric Church, a man who thinks a hangover makes him George Jones. He has a constant self-important attitude, as though he’s an heir to Merle Haggard simply by turning up. The 38 year old Church moved from North Carolina to  Nashville with his Papa’s blessing, money and connects in 1995. Ten years later he had a contract with Capitol Records. To quote his long term producer Jay Joyce in Spin last year: “His stance — he’s about shaking it up, doing something different, and that’s pretty rare when you find new country artists.” Yes, repeat, no.

Church is Bro reduced to Black Jack and coke, he is Blake Shelton’s badass little brother, in a leather jacket and a Harley, an overstated drinking habit, and some great songs. Try Chief, despite its feigned ode to Bruce Springsteen, which would be much more painful if Bruce himself wasn’t a feigned ode to Springsteen, “Jack Daniels” honors the song name and if it is the best it isn’t the only,  and pass on the big bang boom disaster The Outsider from last year.

Actually, try Mr. Misunderstood, Eric’s surprise release, it dropped yesterday on Apple Music: it’s  a  strong collection of mostly mid-tempo country rockers with his seasoned back up band right off the road and long term producer Jay  in charge, Eric’s songwriting skills are actually pretty outstanding here. The 39 minutes are subtly charged, the songs are better than his last one but not just that, they let themselves make the case. Eric stops rubbing our noses in em.Only  “Chattanooga Lucy” the same old boogie,  and “Three Year Old, nauseating lachrymose advice from his son (a stain and a sop respectively)  are cold cockable.

Otherwise, this is a mid-career solid set, it isn’t a major career move the way The Outsider was, it isn’t an attempt to capture the mainstream, but a well played collection of fine songs. “Mr. Misunderstood” is as good as Eric can write and a four song stretch heading towards the finish is as much a sustained vision as you might ever hope to hear from him.The church-y organ on two songs work very well, they add shading and backbone, it is why “Mistress Named Music” isn’t the sort of disaster we too often get from the man,  “Mixed Drinks About Feelings” is a soulful duet with a fine sounding back up singer and an implied Gospel pull.  and on track after track, whether love songs or self portraits, life at work, and life at home, working class dreams and mixed drinks, he resists adding thump to songs that don’t need em. They are roomy, they breathe.

Hey, maybe Eric is in fact the first person to put beer and trucks into country songs…

Grade: B+

 

5 Comments

  1. Dick Destiny on November 5, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    I say, Mr. Church is far from Mr. Misunderstood. He wears the clothes, waves the flags, talks the talk and walks the walk of the determined American moron with great legitimacy!

  2. William on November 6, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I like Eric Church but I’m no homer. What you say makes some sense. It seems like you are trying to force your opinion on the man, not your opinion on the music.

    But where you you really lost me is “fine sounding back up singer”. That’s like reading a football review from someone who mentions New England’s Quarterback as a decent pass thrower or a film critic saying some of the movies from the 40’s include Orson Well’s average ode to Mr. Kane.

    If you think Susan Tedeschi is just fine sounding, why should I listen to what you think about any music sound.

    • admin on November 6, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      she is fine sounding and I love her, but I had no idea it was Susan –nicely picked up, wish I had your ears -IL

      • Brandy on November 10, 2015 at 10:59 pm

        Well done William! I picked it up right away too. She is truly remarkable. I was thrilled before it even got to her verse. I must agree to not know Susan… how can anyone trust your musical review…

  3. Beth on November 7, 2015 at 9:14 am

    We need reviews on the music, not the artist. It’s distracting from the actual purpose of the piece that you are writing. Also, it would have been nice if you had referenced that every song was written or co-written by Eric, which is today’s country world is nearly nonexistent (ex: Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean).

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