The Outsiders by Eric Church

On his fourth studio album, the terrifyingly creative The Outsiders, Eric Church pulls off what so many before him have tried: successfully merging the bedrock sounds of country music (plinking banjo, crying Dobro and a Hank Williams twang) with those of seemingly disparate genres like rock, heavy metal and especially R&B to create an utterly unique product.

While some of Eric’s contemporaries have struggled to connect their country ambitions to the Metallica or Prince influences of their youth, resulting in forced and often jarring compositions, the North Carolina wild card and his equally bat-guano-crazy producer Jay Joyce have officiated a natural union.

Tracks like debut single “The Outsiders” (which when first heard out of context was admittedly head-scratching) and the riff-happy “That’s Damn Rock & Roll” are full of raw power, capable of lighting up Eric’s next arena tour.

The magnificent “Roller Coaster Ride” also has a hard-rock signature, but it chugs along with a psychedelic funkiness. And “Broke Record,” full of low-rider-shaking bass, is seemingly the first country song made with Beats headphones in mind.

“Devil, Devil,” meanwhile, melds both funk and metal with Eric’s country, and opens with a nearly four-minute spoken-word prelude, “Princess of Darkness.” For a moment, you wonder if Eric is strapping on the skis while the shark circles ahead, but somehow it all comes together.

There are also more traditional entries, like clever kiss-off “Cold One,” the NASCAR nostalgia of “Talladega” and the introspective “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young,” all of which prove the Chief hasn’t left country behind.

Rather, he’s kicking its ass into the future.

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