Eric Church was a rebel, both by design and circumstance, an old-fashioned outlaw in a time ruled by sweet country-pop and smiling bros singing about girls, trucks, and beer. Church loved all those things, along with a little smoke, but he was burlier, brawnier, sharper, and smarter than the pack, consciously evoking the ghost of Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash but also playing with metallic guitars that previously had no place in hardcore country. Church liked to blur lines like that. He was amply rewarded for his rule-breaking, earning considerable sales, especially after 2011's breakthrough Chief, but also strong reviews from the mainstream music press, which was merely another way he carried Willie and Waylon's torch. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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