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Country - Released October 5, 2018 | EMI Records Nashville

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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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Country - Released November 11, 2015 | EMI Records Nashville

Country - Released September 15, 2017 | EMI Records Nashville

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Country - Released November 4, 2016 | EMI Records Nashville

An EP recorded during Eric Church's two-night stint at Red Rocks during August 2016, the six-track Mr. Misunderstood on the Rocks Live and (Mostly) Unplugged delivers what the title promises -- live recordings of songs from 2015's Mr. Misunderstood where Church is generally anchored on an acoustic. This doesn't mean he's alone: apart from "Knives of New Orleans" and a closing cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," which was recorded months before the songwriter's death, he's supported by his full band, most of them playing relatively softly if they're not playing acoustic instruments. "Mistress Named Music" gets expanded into a medley featuring a bunch of '70s singer/songwriter mainstays plus George Strait's "Troubadour" -- a quick and effective portrait of Church's roots -- and "Mixed Drinks About Feelings" is performed as a duet with backup singer Joanna Cotten, but the real reason the EP is worthwhile is the overall feel of the performances. Stripped back to their sinew, Church and his band sound stronger than they did on the overblown Caught in the Act, and just a year after their release, the songs are seeming like modern classics. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Country - Released October 6, 2017 | EMI Records Nashville

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Country - Released November 17, 2017 | EMI Records Nashville

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Country - Released January 1, 2011 | EMI Records Nashville

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Country - Released December 29, 2017 | EMI Records Nashville

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Country - Released November 4, 2015 | EMI Records Nashville

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Arriving after the deliberately overblown The Outsiders -- an outlaw album pumped up on steroids, gaining its resonance through its slow songs -- Mr. Misunderstood feels like a correction: a swift, modest album shorn of excess, released without an iota of pre-release hype. Devoid of the arena rock feints that dogged The Outsiders -- there are no two-part metallic jams, no salutations to damn rock & roll -- Mr. Misunderstood is hardly a back-to-basics move or a refutation of his over-amplified indulgences. Rather, this 2015 record pulls together the strands Church left hanging on his 2014 set, never shuffling country and rock -- or blues or soul, for that matter -- into their own categories. Church creates his own Americana, pulling from the classic rock wallpapering Middle America and the modern country that runs through the sports bars of the suburbs, making nods to swamp funk and soul along the way, but when he tips his cap to Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Jeff Tweedy, it's as telling as the Jackson Pollock allusion a few lines later: where other country is provincial, Church embraces the world without repudiating his home. Certainly, there's a strong sense of family flowing throughout Mr. Misunderstood -- he's married to a dream, but his mistress is music; he writes about one son, but puts another on the cover -- but Church takes a cue from "Give Me Back My Hometown," favoring specificity over broad clichés. Take the title track, where he tells a tale that feels autobiographical but he's seeing himself within a teenage outsider stuck in the back of class: here, he opens the door upon the possibility that the rest of the songs on the record -- the tales of heartbreak and longing, maybe even the stories of love and family -- are characters, not confession. Either way, Church's songs are anchored with an authoritative sense of sentiment and place, and they're brought to life by the precise roar of the Eric Church Band. No longer overwhelming with sheer volume, they dig into the funk of "Chattanooga Lucy" and race their leader to the conclusion of "Mr. Misunderstood," but they shine by maintaining the mournful soul of "Round Here Buzz" or by building the tension of "Knives of New Orleans" or by keeping the Susan Tedeschi duet "Mixed Drinks About Feelings" at a sweet, sad simmer. Where The Outsiders was designed to dazzle, Mr. Misunderstood is built for the long haul: it settles into the soul, its pleasures immediate but also sustained. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Country - Released March 24, 2009 | Capitol Nashville

"The Man in Black woulda whipped your ass/And I don't think Waylon done it that way" -- Eric Church on "Lotta Boot Left to Fill" It's a great line that Eric Church means when he sings, but he can't quite convince listeners that he's in the outlaw tradition of Cash, Waylon, and Hank. Church sings like a manicured model, striking all the poses and hitting all the notes, but missing that essential grit. Of course, he isn't helped out by the production of his second album Carolina, a recording that gleams pristine, designed for two drinks at an after-work smokeless bar, not a long booze-filled night at a honky tonk dive. It's a commercial sound, one that puts Carolina firmly within the mainstream, and it also fits the contours of Church's voice. No matter how much he sings about being "Young and Wild" and how he likes to "Smoke a Little Smoke," he sounds like a guy who wants to cut loose but can't manage to shed his inhibitions, which kind of keeps Carolina in a bit of a straitjacket, never sounding as big and brawny as it wants to be. Church fares better when things get a little less macho, when he slides into the ballads like "Where She Told Me to Go" or tunes that are a little sprightly, like the poppy "Without You Here" and the wistful title track. Although there's a bit of a puppy-dog charm to Church's yearning to be bad, it's these softer numbers that suit his talents, and he'd be better off relying on this instead of trying so hard to be wild. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Country - Released January 1, 2014 | EMI Records Nashville

Just in case the title of The Outsiders doesn't give away the game, Eric Church takes pains to strike a defiant stance throughout his fourth album, underscoring his status as a genuine Nashville Rebel. He sings about his "Dark Side" and the Devil, murmurs ominously about "A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young," winks a double entendre about "The Joint," and declares "That's Damn Rock & Roll," a provocative statement from a singer who is nominally country but loves to strut with a heavy metal swagger. Church brings on the thunder with "The Outsiders," a galumphing rallying cry that's intended as a middle finger to all those cheerful bros in tight-fitting jeans who sing songs about trucks set to a hip-hop beat. He may sneer at those good-looking suburban country dudes riding the top of the charts but Church is a modern man -- he decorates the kiss-off "Cold One" with a skittish electronic funk beat -- who doesn't take a second glance at the past, unless it's to tip a hat to Hank, Hag, Jones, or Waylon or to deliver the slow-burning Southern soul of "Like a Wrecking Ball." Contrary to the bluster of "The Outsiders" and "That's Damn Rock & Roll," Church doesn't follow the macho straight and narrow on The Outsiders. Surely, he never disguises his masculine side but sings sweetly, too, and he indulges in detours, the craziest being the prog pomposity of the eight-minute suite "Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)." Most of all, he takes strides to paint himself as the heir apparent to workingman's hero Bruce Springsteen -- previously, Church only poached Bruce's last name for one of the biggest hits from 2011's Chief, the album that turned Church into a star -- going so far as to write an anthem to dying middle-class America called "Give Me Back My Hometown." Designed to be a set closer at arenas across the U.S., it delivers the requisite fireworks but Church possesses a sly eye for detail that humanizes his broad strokes, a necessary counterpoint to songs that are otherwise outsized. This shift toward the epic -- present throughout The Outsiders but not always dominating the tone -- is a real shift for Church, who has otherwise specialized in songs that are a little simpler. That directness played a big role in making Chief a hit and it's sometimes missed on The Outsiders, as the XXL-sized songs don't always stick but the ambition is admirable. Church has made the conscious decision to try a little bit of everything in his quest to be a savior to both rock and country, and if he doesn't quite knock it out of the park when he swings for the fences, he nevertheless scores. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Country - Released January 1, 2006 | Capitol Nashville

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Country - Released October 5, 2018 | EMI Records Nashville

Don't take the title Desperate Man too seriously. Eric Church doesn't sound at the end of his rope on his sixth album; he sounds settled in his skin, assured that he doesn't have to try too hard. Which isn't to say he doesn't try on Desperate Man -- quite the opposite, actually. Church may not be working with a grand concept, the way he did on 2015's semi-autobiographical statement of purpose, Mr. Misunderstood, but he does stretch himself musically, threading elements of funk and soul into his signature sinewy outlaw country. Such sounds aren't foreign to Church but he's emphasizing these sounds, naming the album after a thick, swampy collaboration with Ray Wylie Hubbard -- a country maverick he name-checked on "Mr. Misunderstood" -- and front-loading the album with such similar rockers as "The Snake" and "Hangin' Around." Elsewhere, he slides into a simmering Southern soul groove, epitomized by the bluesy "Higher Wire," which dodges clichés due to its spare, echoey production. That's a small touch, but it speaks volumes about what Church is doing with Desperate Man. Instead of going big, the way he did on 2014's burly Outsiders, he's keeping things small, a decision that highlights the many savvy ways he expands American musical traditions even as he adheres to them. Perhaps these variations on themes are subtle, but this confident sense of sonic adventure -- when combined with Church's expert craft -- results in a satisfying album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Country - Released January 1, 2013 | EMI Music Nashville (ERN)

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Country - Released January 1, 2011 | EMI Records Nashville

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Country - Released January 1, 2009 | Capitol Nashville

Booklet
"The Man in Black woulda whipped your ass/And I don't think Waylon done it that way" -- Eric Church on "Lotta Boot Left to Fill" It's a great line that Eric Church means when he sings, but he can't quite convince listeners that he's in the outlaw tradition of Cash, Waylon, and Hank. Church sings like a manicured model, striking all the poses and hitting all the notes, but missing that essential grit. Of course, he isn't helped out by the production of his second album Carolina, a recording that gleams pristine, designed for two drinks at an after-work smokeless bar, not a long booze-filled night at a honky tonk dive. It's a commercial sound, one that puts Carolina firmly within the mainstream, and it also fits the contours of Church's voice. No matter how much he sings about being "Young and Wild" and how he likes to "Smoke a Little Smoke," he sounds like a guy who wants to cut loose but can't manage to shed his inhibitions, which kind of keeps Carolina in a bit of a straitjacket, never sounding as big and brawny as it wants to be. Church fares better when things get a little less macho, when he slides into the ballads like "Where She Told Me to Go" or tunes that are a little sprightly, like the poppy "Without You Here" and the wistful title track. Although there's a bit of a puppy-dog charm to Church's yearning to be bad, it's these softer numbers that suit his talents, and he'd be better off relying on this instead of trying so hard to be wild. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Country - Released January 25, 2019 | EMI Music Nashville (ERN)

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Country - Released February 8, 2019 | EMI Music Nashville (ERN)

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Country - Released January 18, 2019 | EMI Music Nashville (ERN)

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Country - Released February 1, 2019 | EMI Music Nashville (ERN)

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Eric Church in the magazine
  • Desperately creative
    Desperately creative 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.