Strathclyde Telegraph

Album Review: Eric Church – Mr. Misunderstood 

By Daniel Speirs

 

Eric Church refuses to play by anyone’s rules. The American country singer fired out his latest album, Mr. Misunderstood, last November to little commercial fanfare or media exposure. Nashville’s latest outlaw is renowned for his grounded, laid-back style, but this surprise album release caught even diehards on the hop.

The album is a deeply personal offering, channelling more of the carefree country spirit of ‘Carolina’ than the fast-paced country rock of more recent works such as ‘Chief’ and ‘The Outsiders’. The commercial success of the latter two has clearly afforded Church some leeway to explore his creative side.

Right from the first chords of ‘Mistress Named Music’, the relaxed and upbeat atmosphere of the album is constructed. The opening track, however, quickly reveals itself as an exception, as Church’s characteristic tempo change midway through unleashes the screeching guitars and driving drums of the backing band. ‘Record Year’ returns to the classic country vibe, a breakup providing the impetus for a renewed passion for music.

Most of the album, however, fails to live up to Church’s recent work in terms of originality and purpose. Songs such as ‘Kill a Word’ and ‘Around Here Buzz’ seem played out and fall a little flat. They are pointed examples of Church’s greatest weakness — his capacity to fall into country stereotypes which mirror the work of his contemporaries.

The ‘Church Choir’, his passionate group of hardcore supporters, will no doubt relish the slimmed down, smoother tones of this latest offering. But for the wider public, this album will likely disappear into the vacuum of country music.

Church will be back, however. Expect big hits such as ‘Springsteen’ and ‘Creepin’ when he arrives in Glasgow for the C2C (Country to Country) Festival in March. A passionate and energetic live performer, few tracks from ‘Mr. Misunderstood’ are likely to make their way onto any prospective set list.

However, this album should not be viewed as a failure. Most artists take time out to pursue their own musical niches at the expense of marketability. And there are still enough shades of fist-pumping country rock in the title track and ‘Mistress Named Music’, among others, to generate interest among fans in Church’s more recent work.

Eric Church can be predictable, but never boring. He truly is the enigma the new album suggests.

 

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