The man with the Ray-Bans returns with one of the most ambitious projects a solo artist could undertake. Country music star, Eric Church, has put out chart-topping records consecutively since 2011’s Chief. For his seventh record he chose to take a different approach and release a three-part studio album titled, Heart & Soul. Heart is the first of the three and has already made it to the top five on Billboard 200. The nine-track album features the signature arena anthem sound that Church has been known for with his Heartland style in country music. But for the man who’s brought radio hits for over a decade, Church offers a diverse soundtrack across three genre-bending records. For now, let’s cut open and examine Heart.
Church commences his Heart with the hard rockin’ intro “Heart On Fire”. The opener brings all the liveliness in a tune that just echoes Seger material or Springsteen (the artist, not the Eric Church song). The track intros with rhythmic fingerpicking before unleashing the doors to herd groovin’ piano keys and a propelling drumbeat. Church powers the song’s vocals with the classic story of young hearts wild for each other. He’s relentless in the delivery and maintains the vibe through all four-minutes. For all that, the highlight of the track is the thundering guitar solo that shreds through the melody before slowing down for the acoustic bridge. It’s a great way for Church to kick off his trilogy and makes the listener anticipate what else awaits.
After an intro that blasts away eardrums, Church turns the volume down a bit to deliver a soft country-rock hymn titled: “Heart Of The Night”. Its emotional atmosphere accompanies unpredictable shifts in Church’s vocals that conduct a thunder and lightning effect. The singer’s posting of leaving behind lovesick memories resonate in the lyrics “my true North is anywhere I can leave it all behind”. But the triumph comes in the chorus where Church speaks from the “still beating heart of the night” to hold out for love and hope. His vigorous comments uplifted by a chanting chorale labels the track as a road anthem for any nomad mending a heart. A notion that Church is too good at as a seasoned troubadour himself. The more he opens his “heart” the more we see weighty messages that come through his most immense track on the record.
“Stick That in Your Country Song” emits the social issues that the singer wades into which he feels aren’t discussed enough in the genre. Stories of underprivileged residents, low-income workers and war-torn soldiers intertwine the track in an emotional rollercoaster. Lively vocals and choir ensembles remain present just like in previous tracks with a difference in direction. Instead of raising spirits, Church conveys a call to action of real-life situations that others should be aware of. Through its fluctuation of hard, beat-driven dynamics, listeners are engaged Church’s rise and fall formula in his music. While the tune has dominated country airwaves since last summer, it has collected a slew of nominations. Including a Grammy nomination for Best Country Solo Performance.
Overall, Heart is a stunner for getting the ball rolling in Church’s progressive arrangement of three albums. Its focus on the emotional feels from individuals reveal the singer’s ability to empathize and articulate passions. While this album is just a start for a continuing saga, it’s a warm welcoming intro that pieces the rifts for the next two albums. Whether it’s from the heart or through the soul, fans can find both in this soundtrack. As Church says in regards to the whole album, “It was just a special, special time and a special, special project that I think will be among our best.”
Written by Trenton Luber