While Eric Church has set the bar high with his previous studio albums, "Desperate Man" is right up there with his best and may just be his most accomplished effort to date. Church continues to write memorable songs in a wide variety of styles, and even when he's not singing over country musical elements, his lyrical voice is always undeniably a country one.
He also knows how to have a little fun, especially with "Hanging Around," a soulful, funky tune mixing together Stax soul, Sly & The Family Stone and Tony Joe White's "Polk Salad Anne." One can also easily imagine Jack White performing it. "Heart Like A Wheel," on the other hand, is a closer to a soul ballad, while "Jukebox and A Bar" proves that no modern technology can ever replace the necessity of a honky tonk and all its amenities when it comes to treating a broken heart.
Two songs sweetly draw upon childhood memories for their inspirations. "Monsters" recalls nightmarish childhood recollections of monsters under the bed. "Fallen on my knees is my new turning on the light," is Church's poetically sharp way of describing his prayer life. Whereas hitting the light switch scared away imaginary monsters as a youth, turning to God in prayer chases away scary (and sometimes scarier) adult imaginations. "Hippie Radio" is a folky sound extolling how good music sounded on the radio as a child. It also speaks to bonding with his father over music. Furthermore, the song describes a time when radio was so much better, with far more variety, than it is today.
The title cut is also a soulful groover, like "Hanging Around." It's theme of hard scrapple rebelliousness is a similar Church perspective. It has a distinctively Rolling Stones-esque "Sympathy for The Devil" feel, which comes off closer to a sonic tribute, rather than mere imitation.
The album closes with "Drowning Man," an honest-to-goodness drinking song. Church has been guilty of recording consequence-free drinking songs in the past, but this song, which begins meditatively, cranks up the rock and roll towards the end and paint a sobering picture.
From the outlaw in "Desperate Man," to the one hitting the bottle with "Drowning Man," Church spotlights a wide range of differing characters. Once again, Church surprises and satisfies us with a new collection of inspired songs.