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Eric Church - The Outsiders Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.5
Musicianship 8.5
Lyrics 8.5
Production 8.5
Creativity 8.5
Lasting Value 8.5
Reviewer Tilt 8.5
Final Verdict: 85%
Member Ratings
Vocals 5.9
Musicianship 5.9
Lyrics 5.9
Production 5.9
Creativity 5.9
Lasting Value 5.9
Reviewer Tilt 5.9
Average: 59%

Eric Church - The Outsiders

Reviewed by: Gregory Robson (02/12/14)
Eric Church - The Outsiders
Record Label: EMI Records Nashville
Release Date: Feb. 11, 2014

For as long as country music has been around, there have always been outlaws, bad boys who were not afraid to stir it up. Foremost of those was the legendary Johnny Cash, followed closely by Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, Willie Nelson and Steve Earle. These singers rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s (save for Steve Earle, who found success in the 1980s) and became the flag-bearers for the sub-genre outlaw country. Of all the current artists in country music, none come as close to the outlaw country spirit as North Carolina native Eric Church.

Be it his marijuana anthem “Smoke a Little Smoke,” the anti-ghetto slow-burner “Home Boy,” his teen pregnancy rocker “Two Pink Lines,” or his brash persona, Church has made bank on being a pompous agitator who is not afraid to be abrasive, speak his mind or stir shit up. To put it simply, he’s bringing the punk ethos to country music and finding great success with it to boot. His 2011 album Chief rocketed to the top of the charts, was nominated for a Grammy and even made some Top 10 lists. So it is with much anticipation that The Outsiders, released today, enters the world.

The album opener and title track begins with spoken word vocals and bursts into a stadium-ready singalong with a wall of sound accentuated by towering guitars, a rattling rhythm section and a veneer that is brash, brawny and more bad ass than a bucking bronco. One of Church’s best assets is his tender and intimate vocals, which have a way of drawing the listener in and sounding both earnest, sincere and most importantly, human. While “The Outsiders” was more about swagger and sweat, “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young,” brings the sonic level way down and envelops into a quiet, understated love letter to his wife.

As much of a song about contrition for his rough-and-tumble lifestyle as it is a gratitude ballad, “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young,” is an absolute must-listen and easily one of Church’s best songs to date. From there, the first half of the record vacillates between honky-tonk fare (“Cold One” and “Broke Record”) to big-hearted mid-tempo meditations (“Roller Coaster Ride” and “Talladega”). Of the four, the sweetly affecting “Roller Coaster Ride” and “Talladega” are the most accessible and appear more than ready to chart before the end of the year. And yet for all the charms of the disc’s first half, it’s The Outsiders back-end that makes the biggest impact.

Of the half-dozen that litter the back half few are better than the slow-moving “Like a Wrecking Ball,” a whiskey-soaked slice of organ-drenched soul that howls with tenderness, pain and armfuls desperation. For as much as he enjoys playing up his bad-boy image, Church is truly miles above his contemporaries on quieter material such as this. Spoken-word vocals return on the fist-shaking “That’s Rock & Roll,” a cocksure middle finger to all those who try and stand in his way. The song tries to rocket to the same heights as “Cold One” and “The Outsiders” but never quite gets there. Instead the song yields to the lyrics and never once makes the defiant statement Church so desperately wants to make.

After the hushed quiet of the haunting “Dark Side” Church offers up “Devil, Devil,” an eight-minute spoken word effort that rattles on for nearly nine minutes and references everyone from Waylon to Bobby Bare. While the song falls off in places, its length alone makes more of a statement than anything. Country music on the whole is consistently concise with few songs extending beyond the five-minute mark, but if anyone is to challenge the system it’s definitely going to be Church.

Penultimate cut and lead single “Give Me Back My Hometown” is a first-rate ballad that visits much of the same sonic terrain as chart-topper “Springsteen” but follows the narrative of his previous hit “Home Boy.” Church as always cited The Boss as an influence and the ample uses of the phrase “My Hometown” seem to allude to that. Easily one of the better songs on the disc “This is My Hometown” is another example of Church at his very best. The Outsiders closes with “The Joint,” a dusty and ragged cut that slithers and snakes along with a haunting and ominous presence. While it’s a peculiar and dark way to finish an album, the effortlessness in which it’s presented only affirms Church’s presence as one of country music’s brightest stars.

Only four albums into a star-studded career, Church seems more than ready to continue that level of success with The Outsiders. Though the album has its weak moments, there’s no denying that when Church swings for the fences, he absolutely knocks it out of the park. Defiant, undaunted and brimming with confidence, The Outsiders happily carries the banner of outlaw country. While it’s not quite as transcendent and monumental as Chief, it’s a fine step forward and more than enough reason to think that Church is one worth following in the months and years to come.

Recommended If You Like Brantley Gilbert, Shooter Jennings, Jamey Johnson, Trent Tomlinson


Tracklisting 1. The Outsiders
2. A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young
3. Cold One
4. Roller Coaster Ride
5. Talladega
6. Broke Record
7. Like a Wrecking Ball
8. That’s Damn Rock & Roll
9. Dark Side
10. Devil, Devil (Prelude: Prince of Darkness)
11. Give Me Back My Hometown
12. The Joint

Produced by Jay Joyce (The Wallflowers, Cage the Elephant, Iggy Pop, Brendan Benson)


Find Him Here Official Website
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 17
05:37 AM on 02/12/14
#2
Craig Manning
Down in Jungleland
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Should have figured you'd be reviewing this, but I didn't see your name next to it, so I was about three paragraphs into my own write-up. Oh well, I'll just blog that. But I really like this album a lot, after not really giving him the time of day in the past. He's definitely got something the other mainstream country guys don't. Reminds me more of Ryan Bingham and Will Hoge on this record.
05:52 AM on 02/12/14
#3
derekjd
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This guy has been on my radar for a while, but I never really had a desire to listen to him. Now I o. Great review, man.
06:25 AM on 02/12/14
#4
texan4lif281
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Good review. One of my favorite country singers, glad to see the review on here. More country music reviews!
06:53 AM on 02/12/14
#5
Gregory Robson
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Should have figured you'd be reviewing this, but I didn't see your name next to it, so I was about three paragraphs into my own write-up. Oh well, I'll just blog that. But I really like this album a lot, after not really giving him the time of day in the past. He's definitely got something the other mainstream country guys don't. Reminds me more of Ryan Bingham and Will Hoge on this record.
Definitely has a Bingham and Hoge thing going on for sure. Have you not listened to Chief? That's a pretty solid disc. Should have won the Grammy over that helter-skelter Zac Brown disc.

Also, his album Carolina has quite a few gems on it too!
06:57 AM on 02/12/14
#6
Timmerton120
Timmy Sampana
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Glad/Surprised to see some country reviewed on the site. Nice review!
07:10 AM on 02/12/14
#7
Craig Manning
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Definitely has a Bingham and Hoge thing going on for sure. Have you not listened to Chief? That's a pretty solid disc. Should have won the Grammy over that helter-skelter Zac Brown disc.

Also, his album Carolina has quite a few gems on it too!
Yeah, but not until last week. I had "Springsteen," obviously, but I had never gotten around to listening to the full album until I checked this one out and realized how much I liked it.

I've heard good things about his earlier records too. Will check those out.
07:26 AM on 02/12/14
#8
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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Good review. One of my favorite country singers, glad to see the review on here. More country music reviews!
I've tried to do at least one a year since 2010. To be fair, I always have plans to write more than just one, they just never pan out. That being written, this album has some truly dazzling songs and I implored myself to write this. It's my favorite genre, so I'm always stoked to see/hear from other country music fans.
08:17 AM on 02/12/14
#9
lovemetal24
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wow…..new level
10:53 AM on 02/12/14
AlexJLow
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Actually happy to see some country reviewed on here, ever since I lived down south I have had a massive soft spot. Will check this out later on.
01:20 PM on 02/12/14
The Meech
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love it when you guys review country albums
01:20 PM on 02/12/14
Chris Fallon
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I love this dude. Both Chief and Carolina are terrific albums, and this one sounds pretty damn good after one listen.
04:41 PM on 02/12/14
JunkBondTrader
Judas seems sincere...
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love the album. love eric church. i think the only song i dislike on the album is the prelude to Devil Devil. everything else rocks.
05:14 PM on 02/12/14
boomer08
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Good to see this reviewed here and great review! I love Church's lyrics. I was blown away by "A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young" when it came out a few weeks ago.
08:19 PM on 02/12/14
Your Milkshake
...I drink it
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the guy aint too good and the marketing image they try to give him is pretty comical
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