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The Earliest Bird 4-16-21 – 4-22-21: Eric Church’s “Heart” Reviewed


I’ve had an ongoing dispute with rock nyc writer Ken Davis about the value of 21st century Bruce Springsteen recorded output. We agree on his 20th century work, and we agree upon his live performance (indeed, thanks to Ken’s review here, I caught the best Bruce show I ever saw here). Bruce lost the magic touch years ago as a songwriter, album after disappointing album culminated in his last two.

But I get Ken’s problem here, if not Bruce then who?

If no one else can “Stick That In Your Country Song,” than it’s a damn good thing that Eric can respond to Luke Bryan’s (also excellent) “Born Here Live Here Die Here” type sentiment . Eric didn’t write it (just about perfectly, it’s country vet writer Jeffrey Steele, and Davis Naish here) but he owns it and he wrote or co-wrote the rest of Heart. Eric is a country giant and he is also more than a country giant, he is an embodiment of the dying and dead cultural bellwether of rock and roll, he is last man standing of literal, socially aware, badass outlawism. Heart, the first of three albums to be released this year, is a 31 minute 8 second work of sustained genius, a full on rock album with Eric’s twang on top. In comparison, the new Young Thug is 75 minutes long and Morgan Wallen’s smash is 105 minutes in length. Church is better than both. Half an hour is an optimum length. Next week, we get the second album Fire, and the third album a week later is vinyl only for fan club members (hot, eh?), but this is the one.

According to Riff Magazine’s Roman Gokhman (here): “Eric Church wrote and recorded Heart & Soul over a month with a team of songwriters and musicians. He secluded himself at a shuttered restaurant in the North Carolina mountains with his writers and players, and proceeded to write and record about a song per day, for a total of 24 songs over 28 days.” All of a piece, the nine songs start with two “heart” tracks “Heart On Fire” and “Heart Of The Night” and continues the dramatic anthem every man tracks with such consistency it is just brilliant, the harmonies on “Heart Of The Night” feels like an intrusion, we want him alone right now. It doesn’t amount to a mistake, maybe an overreach. After that, it is one great song after another, not a world view really but a country review, a coming together through the road and onwards, East to West, “racking up miles” playing Russian Roulette with the radio, a trip through the US with a dashboard.  The closest I’ve heard to it thematically is Lana Del Ray’s failed Chemtrails  -it shares an easy riding trip from coast to coast, through the Mid West, a sole rider riding through on one great song after another. While the songs are country variants to a degree, the piano pounding “Never Break Heart” is classic rock, “Crazyland” is Wildflowersish, “Bunch Of Nothing” is a country blues rocker, and all… take your pick, are first rate.

On Letter To You, Bruce’s epitaph songs to the Americana Chuck Berry invented is what it deplores, not what it misses. Lana (again, I don’t really like the album but) and Eric carry the mantle, they take us there, they make the trip for better or worse, on our behalf.

If not Bruce, then who? If not Bruce,  then Eric Church. Stick that in your Bruce review.

Grade: A



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