Stream of the Week - with Mike Jones
ERIC CHURCH HEART, &, SOUL
Reigning Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Eric Church is back with his most ambitious project to date. Firstly, a quick disclaimer. The word “country” is a dirty word to many. Not its fans – who are amongst the most passionate and supportive in the world. Rather, its detractors. Whether it’s the very idea of “country” or the representation of what passes as country in today’s world, it emits a dramatic scoff from many fans of other genres. At its most generic it deserves all the scoffs, but when country music is at its best there isn’t a genre on earth that can tell better stories and connect the listener with the songs. And that’s where Eric Church comes in…. or does he? Is Eric Church country? Sure, he’s found a tremendous amount of success on country radio but Church has always bucked trends and experimented with rock, soul, funk and more into his stadium packing sound.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Eric Church, his band, and a select few songwriters “quarantined” in the mountains of North Carolina for 28 days with the goal of writing and recording one song per day. The initial concept was just to try it out and see if it worked – after closely evaluating the songs he opted to release three albums. Heart which came out first, & following that, and Soul which was released last!
Heart reads just as well as a classic rock record as it does country. The fiery lead single “Stick That in Your Country Song” speaks directly to other artists and demands they stop ignoring the ‘real issues’ of the world in their lyrics. “Stick that in your country song. Take that one to number one,” Church sings while listing off the economic crisis in Detroit, the riots in Baltimore after the police killing of Freddie Gray, and the overall mistreatment and underappreciation of teachers. The album also features “Heart of the Night” which could very well be a Meat Loaf or Queen song and the pure guitar-driven rock of “Heart On Fire.” Several songs pack an emotional punch such as “Russian Roulette,” “Never Break Heart,” and a very interesting metaphor of mental health ailments as regular patrons of a bar in “Crazyland.”
The second release & is exclusive to his fan club, dubbed the “Church Choir.” It opens with a tribute to his fans, “Through My Ray-Bans,” which is also a perfect analogy for the unity that live music brings. You can stand shoulder to shoulder with someone you vehemently disagree with politically but in that moment, it doesn’t matter because it’s about the music. “Lone Wolf” is sure to be another fan favourite with some seriously epic percussion as the music swells.
The third and final release Soul opens with the great anthology song, “Rock and Roll Found Me,” and continues on with everything from radio-friendly country (Church’s current single “Hell of A View”) to the Bee Gees-esque rocker “Break It Kind of Guy”. “Look Good and Know It” is another track where Church shows off his incredible vocal range, while letting Church band member Joanna Cotton shine. Closing out the record is the epic storytelling ballad “Lynyrd Skynyrd Jones” which pays off with an amazing twist at the end
It doesn’t matter if you’re a country fan or not – you’ll find something to enjoy here in this incredible 24 song collection. The only question – how in the heck does Church top this? Knowing him and his team – they’ll find a way.