Mr. Misunderstood (EMI Nashville, 2015)
Reviewed by Dustin Blumhagen
The subdued music allows the lyrics to take center stage. "Mixed Drinks About Feelings" is a restrained blues song, with soulful vocals from Susan Tedeschi adding emotion. One of Nashville's strongest songwriters, Travis Meadows, co-wrote the unapologetically dark "Knives of New Orleans," which slowly builds to the climactic confession. A gospel choir, hand claps and energetic organ support the fun track "Chattanooga Lucy." Southern soul is a clear influence on many of the songs, with nods to the history of the blues peppered throughout.
Taking a step back from the over the top arena rock of his last album, "The Outsiders," Church instead focuses on the song again, taking influence from soul and the blues rather than John Cougar Mellancamp. This was a bold move for Church, but it works well. When a country artist incorporates a piece of a Wilco song into their own and namechecks Jeff Tweedy to boot, you know they are going to push some boundaries.
The biggest surprise to come from this album isn't the unannounced release. Rather, it is that Church rolled out his best set of songs since "Sinners Like Me" instead of trying to mine the formulaic success of "The Outsiders." Like Stapleton and Jason Isbell, Church now seems more interested in writing great songs than chasing radio play.
CDs by Eric Church
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