Album Review: Eric Church’s ‘Mr. Misunderstood’

Written by Chuck Dauphin
Album Review: Eric Church’s ‘Mr. Misunderstood’
Eric Church; Publicity Photo

In an industry where everyone pretty much knows what each other’s next move is going to be, Eric Church pulled one over on Nashville and the business this week. On the day of the CMA Awards, it was announced that the million-selling artist was releasing an album – one that nobody seemed to know about. In true maverick fashion, Church released the new music to his fan club members first – an unheard move these days.

While, to some degree, the move qualifies as a “trick” just a few days after Halloween, the new album also stands as a treat. In this early holiday gift to his fans, the singer has assembled what very well might be his strongest release yet.

Kicking off with the masterfully-written title cut, which conjures up Church’s inner Steve Earle, the singer once again marches to his own drum beat (remember “The Outsiders?”), recording music like nobody else these days. On the track, Church lets listeners up close and personal into the artistic view of an artist who has, at times, been misunderstood – powerful and true.

Other potent tracks from a lyrical standpoint include “Mistress Named Music,” which details the hold that the music can have on a person, as well as the very inventive “Kill A Word,” which details the singer’s wish to remove such words as hate from peoples’ vocabularies. It’s a viewpoint unlike anything I have heard in quite some time. He also shows his bluesy side on the intoxicating “Mixed Drinks About Feelings,” which is a true lyrical masterpiece – especially with it’s rough-hewn emotional rawness

It’s not all heavy here, as he delves into some cool guitar-influenced funk on the entertaining “Chattanooga Lucy,” which is by far the most fun track I have heard yet from Church. It’s probably not for radio – but there are some moments here that are, such as the vivid imagery of “Knives Of New Orleans,” “Round Here Buzz,” and “Three Year Old” – which I think has the potential to become possibly the biggest record of Church’s career – should the label release it. Is this a commercial album? I don’t know, because I think more than any other hit artist, Eric Church pays less attention to what is “Radio-Friendly” than anyone else in town. And, that is the magic of one Eric Church. You might like it…You might not…..but you’re going to feel something. And, one will do that several times over here. An interesting move from someone who always paints with his own brush – or as Haggard might say, wears his ‘own kind of hat!’