Last year, the Nashville country badass Eric Church released The Outsiders, which turned him from rising star into the type of artist who sells out arenas around the country. I fucking loved it, to the point where I attempted to float the theory that he’s our greatest working rock star. (Whatever, fuck you, I’m right.) And now it appears that Church has followed up The Outsiders in a deeply implausible way. He’s got a new surprise album called Mr. Misunderstood that he’s sent out, on CD, via snail mail, to members of his fan club.
This seems like it should be just a nice little bonus, an album of outtakes and ephemera. But no. It’s a full-on album, recorded in grand and glossy fashion, full of songs that would be right at home on country radio. Taste Of Country reports that members of the Church Choir, Church’s fan club, started getting the album in the mail yesterday, and it’s a fully produced affair. There are rumors that Church will release the album nationwide tomorrow. In the meantime, one YouTube user has uploaded every song on the album, and it sounds pretty fucking great on first listen.
Church’s style is grand, swaggering heartland-rock with more; he sounds more like prime-era John Cougar Mellencamp than like, say, Blake Shelton. And while The Outsiders pushed his sound in some adventurous new directions, Mr. Misunderstood seems like a more down-the-middle record, though no less impressive for sticking in its comfort zone. Also, in the first verse of the album-opening title track, he shouts out Elvis Costello and sings the line, “Jeff Tweedy is one bad mother”; I had to run it back to make sure I was hearing it right. Check out a couple of songs below.
If you want to check out every song on the album, they’re all up here. Hurry; they’ll probably get taken down soon.
UPDATE: The whole thing is out now on Apple Music/iTunes here.