In the three years since releasing his self-titled fourth album in 2017, Eldredge has experienced an odyssey of personal growth, going such lengths as to exchange his smart phone for a flip phone and embarking on solo writers retreats to connect with his inner being. The dozen songs that comprise Sunday Drive are the result of this deep cleanse of mind, body and soul. Album co-producers and co-writers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, the geniuses who worked with Kacey Musgraves on her transcendental Golden Hour, sprinkle their magic onto Sunday Drive, walking arm in arm with Eldredge through each song that pulls at one’s heartstrings in their own unique way.
“What in the world are we all doing here? What do we see when we look in the mirror?” Eldredge ponders in the thought-provoking opening statement on “Where the Heart Is” before pleading over a gentle symphony of strings and piano, “in a world that’s gone cold, show me where the heart is.” While he’s searching for the heart in the album’s opening track, he becomes that sanctuary on “Good Day,” an uplifting message that encourages one to find the sun on a gloomy day where he also delivers the wise vignette, “life is a song that I’m still learning.”
Sunday Drive is filled with little moments that touch one’s soul, whether it’s an extended introduction from an acoustic guitar on “Where the Heart Is” or a one-and-a-half minute instrumental of soft trumpets in “Paris, Illinois,” the latter of which closes the album with a love letter to Eldredge’s hometown that sounds like it was pulled from the soundtrack of a French film in the 1940s. These poetic offerings are never rushed, rather given the space they need to breathe and settle in the listener’s spirit alongside the beautiful lyrics that have Eldredge professing “when those fallin’ stars, don’t line up your dreams, before it breaks your heart, let me be the one you need” or was at once “so broke you could see through me” before finding the light with “eyes wide open to the picture show outside” on “Sunday Drive.”
Eldredge exudes grace throughout this cinematic tapestry, and nowhere is that more apparent than the title track. “Sunday Drive” is the heartbeat of the album – it’s a story, a memory, an old photograph come to life in the form of tear-inducing lyrics about how a moment as seemingly simple as a Sunday drive with loved ones has the power to profoundly shape one’s perspective. Eldredge begins this journey as a child in the backseat of his grandparents’ old-fashioned car, watching the world pass by through the window while catching glimpses of their love along the way. The passage of time later finds the singer in the drivers’ seat, watching his aging parents in the back look out at the world around them that’s both familiar and filled with changes, these experiences teaching him the valuable lessons of how to live, laugh and love. “It’s the ordinary things that mean so much,” Eldredge croons in one of the album’s purest messages.
Though Eldredge has long been known as a romantic, Sunday Drive is not a romance of the heart, but of the soul. It’s a symbol of renewal following Eldredge’s season of soul-searching, one that stands as a masterpiece in his collection and a true work of art in the landscape of modern country music.