Sound — 9
I can't even begin to describe my appreciation for Eric Church. He's the only artist on country radio with a completely unique sound. Aside from that, he's also country radio's most dynamic vocalist. In my opinion, he's the best flat out songwriter since Steve Earle, and each of his three studio albums prove that point. "Carolina", his second studio release, entered the waves with lead single "Love Your Love The Most". Clearly the most commercial track on the album, the song still struck chords with those of us who appreciate a love song that sounds genuine. The rest of the album is a nice mix of folk influenced traditional country and rockin' numbers like the fan-loved "Lotta Boot Left To Fill" and "Ain't Killed Me Yet". Though he does harder songs better than any other country artist but perhaps Brantley Gilbert, it's when Eric Church gets serious that he really hits home. The highlight of the album is definitely "Where She Told Me To Go", a heartfelt ode to a lover who sent him packing. The title track is the second highlight, focusing on Church's home state of North Carolina. This album may not be the tour de force that "Chief" is, but it's still an excellent country record and by far the best that 2009 had to offer.
Lyrics — 9
Church has always been very strong both lyrically and vocally. His songs either tell stories or express emotions like gratitude or disdain. The most abrasive lyrical content has got to be in fan favorite "Lotta Boot Left To Fill" though the absolute lyrical highlight of the album is standout track "Where She Told Me To Go". Vocally, he's a step above his peers and though he may not have the easy listening bass of Josh Turner, he's as talented overall with both his range and ability to make tough-to-sing words sound fluid within the song. Seriously, this guy sung the word "happenstance" in his biggest hit so far and it was fluid as all hell. It's an absolute marvel to listen to him sing live with just an acoustic guitar in hand. You need to listen to this album, to all three albums.
Overall Impression — 8
I'd love to rate straight nines, but this is the runt of his three albums. Don't get me wrong, it's still phenomenal, but if I have to pick a least favorite it's definitely "Carolina". You still need to buy this album if you like country. Don't expect to have different artists pop into your head while listening because he establishes his own sound within the first ten seconds of the album. I've already listed highlight tracks further up, but don't be hesitant to go check this album out on YouTube. Every song is worthwhile, and even if one or two don't click with you it's likely that you'll appreciate his lyrical and vocal abilities, anyway. I also mentioned that this is the best country album of 2009, and that's no stretch. Any year that EC releases a country album, it's going to be the best that year has to offer. Keep in mind that I'm stating this with full understanding that there are underground artists out there. What I'm referring to is the mainstream market, where artists like Eric Church are few and far between.