But only a true insider could produce an album like this and make it work. This collection of songs is full of heavy metal riffs and guitar solos complete with a Nashville-bashing diatribe spoken by Church. This is ultimate outlaw country. Not many can make a track like "That's Damn Rock & Roll" and "Devil, Devil" on a country record. And no, not many would want to, but that's who Eric Church wants to be.
After the fist pumping anthem "The Outsiders," he slows it way down on track 2. "A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young" is a lovely ballad that ponders thoughts like how in the heck has he outlived Hank or Jesus despite his reckless ways. It's stripped down and draws you in. He attributes his calming down to his spouse who has always loved him (like Jesus does) and been there for him. At one point in his life he thought he'd die young, but now he wants to live forever with the love of his life. He admits in "Dark Side" that if he were to ever let this side see the light of day, "there'd be hell to pay." I think this song describes exactly who Eric Church is not only as a person but as an artist as well. It might be my favorite on the album.
There are plenty of catchy songs too. He sings the nostalgic "Give Me Back My Hometown" with a hint of annoyance and regret. He's unable to enjoy his hometown because he's haunted by his ex. "Cold One" laments the girl who not only broke his heart but took his beer too (left him one short of a twelve pack)! He lost two cold ones in this story.... The irresistible beat of "Broke Record" about an unhealthy obsession with a woman is bound to get stuck in your head. "Talladega" is a made-for-radio tune about a road trip in a Winnebago with his buddies."Here's to turn it up, slowin' down and cars that go real fast." I hope he releases this one as a single.
There are so many layers to this album that you could dissect it again and again. It's not all country, it's not all rock, but it's all soul. It's a wild ride through the mind of Eric Church - a musical adventure from start to finish.