Mr. Misunderstood - Rolling Stone
Home Music Album Reviews

Mr. Misunderstood

Nashville star tries out falsetto soul, name-checks Tweedy and Stevie on a quick-recorded gem

Eric Church

John Peets

Eric Church has always been excellent at balancing whiskey-charged toughness with open-hearted musical subtlety: His first great hit was 2011’s “Springsteen,” a masterwork of literary detail and melodic texture, and 2014’s The Outsiders nailed a 21st-century country-rock sweet spot. So it’s no big shock to hear him big-upping Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (and even nicking one of his tunes) on this album, where he cleverly juggles genres and often leans on his somber singer-songwriter side. Recorded in about a month and surprise-released to fans, it’s full of casual stunners: “Mixed Drinks About Feelings” is a closing-time piano duet with Susan Tedeschi; “Chattanooga Lucy” sees Church working a soul falsetto over a stomping dance groove; and the backing track for “Kill A Word” is like a twang-born kissing cousin of early-Eighties Fleetwood Mac. 

Church’s well-observed writing and warm, generous wit ground the album, particularly on two examples of the small-town vignettes he does so well: The title track, which builds from acoustic reverie to barnburner as he empathizes with a misfit who has long-shot rock & roll dreams – tipping its hat to Wilco’s 1996 opus Being There along the way – and the prettily elegiac “Round Here Buzz,” which enters the term “lit up like that one stoplight” into the canon of go-nowhere drunk-dude one-liners. The most moving moment, “Record Year,” is Church at his ecumenical best. It’s a sweet, sad ode to post-breakup boozing next to a turntable that has Waylon, Willie and Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life in its stack of vinyl Band-Aids. Tweedy should be happy to be included in such fine company.


Powered by
Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.