Review #419: Chief, Eric Church

Karla Clifton
3 min readJul 17, 2023

#419: Chief, Eric Church

I recognize Eric Church. He’s from North Carolina. He was on an episode of Cribs, in which he comes across as an insanely normal guy in an insanely nice house. (Why is there a slice of toast in his toaster?) Worst controversy: Canceling a concert so he could watch North Carolina play Duke in the NCAA Final Four. I feel like I know Eric Church.

I used to torture my siblings with Sonic Youth, and they used to torture me with country radio. I went to high school on the prairie, and the likelihood that I heard this album in its entirety on country radio already is very high. I thought it was all “bro country” and gave it no credit whatsoever. I bitterly resented cowboys. So my initial reaction to this was part delight but also part irritation, that Rolling Stone believes bro country is worthy of the list but not emo. (My Chem notwithstanding.)

Bro country = party anthems. That’s why it was easy to write this one off at first. Easy because of songs called “Drink In My Hand,” “Jack Daniels,” and “I’m Getting Stoned,” until I realized that the latter two are slightly more masochistic, about losing and lighting one up in response to an ex getting married. Even “Hungover & Hard Up” isn’t necessarily a party anthem — in fact it’s a slightly catchier Merle song, with all his booziness and all his ambivalence.

So I came to a surprising conclusion: Eric Church isn’t bro country, he’s a modern outlaw, literally casting himself as the “Country Music Jesus.” It’s so cheesy but it was secretly my favorite; it reminds me of American Idiot’s “Jesus of Suburbia,” though he doesn’t lean into the concept as much as Billie Joe does. Still, he commits to being a long haired hippie prophet preachin’ from the book of Johnny Cash, all electric guitars on “Creepin’” and “Keep On.” He hits a few other country album necessities with the toothless ballad “Like Jesus Does” (which Church only gets a pass on because he didn’t write it) and the pretty duet with Joanna Cotten “Over When It’s Over.”

I wasn’t surprised to see that “Springsteen” was the biggest country song of 2012. Bruce himself loved it, surprise surprise — recall that he is the RS 500 List’s Patron Saint, so his opinion does hold some weight here. Church riffs on a simple observation, the fact that a melody sounds like a memory, and I think it maybe changed my mind about modern country music entirely.

I knew I recognized Eric Church, but I was fully prepared to write him off, because some biases are tough to get over. I think I might have finally gotten over this one.

Worst Song By A Mile: “Homeboy,” which makes Church seem, I don’t know, grouchy?

Review #418: Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits

Review #420: That’s The Way Of The World, Earth, Wind & Fire