Sound: Eric Church may claim that "we need a country music Jesus" on "Chief", but he's just being modest. If there's a country music Jesus out there, it's Mr. Church himself. Not only has he begun to rejuvenate a stale genre with the release of his latest single "Homeboy", he's begun to define his own image and sound. His first two albums (the monumental "Sinners Like Me" and it's wonderful follow up "Carolina") got some radio play with numbers such as "Guys Like Me" and "Love Your Love The Most", but the third single off of "Carolina" gave us the first taste of what Chief would hold. "Smoke A Little Smoke" became perhaps Eric Church's most beloved live song (right next to "These Boots", the best song off of "Sinners Like Me"). It had a personality, and that's exactly what "Chief", as an entire album, contains. It's full of finger twisting acoustic guitar, banjo, and mandolin. It's got satisfying doses of distorted guitar ("Homeboy" and "Keep On") and even more of Church's wonderful singing. Quite frankly, the sound of this album is epic. It's satisfying in every sense of the word. // 10
Lyrics: One of Eric Church's strengths has always been his lyrics. From the honestly original tone of the title track on "Sinners Like Me" to the figurative but undoubtedly true language in "Hell On The Heart" from "Carolina", his albums are always full of wonderful lines that only his voice can sing. Did I mention his singing yet? Eric Church has a definitive voice in the increasing stale country music market full of over-produced bass voices and image-over-sound artists. Quite frankly, Eric Church can actually sing. He can actually write. When did it become unimportant to music fans that their artists have these two talents? If you like your singer-songwriters to excel in each department of that title, this is the album for you. // 10
Overall Impression: I don't normally rate straight 10s, but I'm going to in this case. This album is absolutely fantastic. There is no excuse to pass this up if you like your country music loud, proud, and honest. Eric Church is what Jason Aldean claims to be. He's real, and flat out better than your favorite country artist. He can write circles around just about anybody, and is just as talented as David Lee Murphy. He can sing circles around just about everybody as well, because he doesn't need added studio production to sound good. Eric Church and Jamey Johnson stand high above their peers, and if 2011 has it's own version of Johnson's "The Guitar Song", it's "Chief".
Standout tracks: "Creepin'", "Keep On", "Like Jesus Does", "Homeboy", "Country Music Jesus", "Springsteen", "I'm Gettin' Stoned".
This album is worth every penny. // 10