Country has always enjoyed a faithful fan base. Although the genre's golden age has since moved on from honkytonks and the Texas of the 1950s, it is hard to rival the charm of Eric Church.
The forty-something year old from North Carolina is keeping these American legends alive. Halfway between Tony Joe White and John Prine, he has been making country rock with songwriting at its heart since the release of his first album in 2006, Sinners Like Me. Church has become a touchstone and an icon, transforming every new record almost into some sort of national event. With Desperate Man, he has shown that his superstar status has done nothing to dampen his creativity. Co-written with the Texan Ray Wylie Hubbard, it's a country pop record with swamp influences and more than a little groove that gives life to the spirit of the American South. Far from Luke Brian or Tim McGraw, Desperate Man carries a real emotional charge.
Here is a man looking for spiritual stability in a world which seems to have lost its bearings. The title track speaks of desperation after going to pray at the Joshua Tree: Eric Church winds up with a fortune teller who tells him that he has no future at all. So be it, he says. And so he decides to concentrate on doing what he does best. The album opens with the winding of a swamp snake around couplets recited in a deep and mysterious voice. This traditional swamp rock is swiftly swept away by the rhythms of Hangin’ Around. The head-nodding and foot-tapping is quickly overtaken by some sugary pop à la Hank Jr. on Some Of It. Church gets his measurements just right on every track. “Boo boo boo" base humour and Rolling Stones sounds on Desperate Man, steel guitar distortion on Solid and through it all, that faintly nasal voice. This ninth album, brilliantly produced by Jay Joyce (Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Iggy Pop…), definitely deserves its spot at the Opry. © Clara Bismuth/Qobuz
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