Music Reviews
Heart & Soul

Eric Church Heart & Soul

(EMI Nashville) Rating - 7/10

Is Eric Church our last rockstar? There’s some obvious issues with my theory, I’ll admit to that much. For one, the Nashville-based country musician doesn’t quite play rock, although there’s plenty of classic rock from Bob Segar to the Grateful Dead in his blood. In addition to that, we’re in an era where the myth of the rockstar is pretty obsolete. Still, in terms of his live performances, Church is only comparable to Bruce Springsteen—often performing 4-hour arena shows filled with covers and experiments. In a rockstar move, Church has dropped a triple release titled Heart & Soul, split between two albums—Heart, along with Soul—and an EP titled & that is only available to his fan club. It’s somewhat of a gamble in terms of length and ambition, but Church mostly pulls it off.

Written over the course of a month at a closed restaurant in North Carolina, Heart & Soul is filled with goofy experiments, clichés, his lovely voice, and some slightly awkward production. It’s lengthy, but there’s a half-dozen excellent songs that rank among the best Church have ever made. In other words, it’s an Eric Church album, with all of his strengths and weaknesses clearly shining through. Take Heart on Fire, a blazing, twangy tune that could please both country radio and classic rock purists. Despite somewhat banal lines about drinking before the legal age, the phrase “Soaking my soul in gas and setting my heart on fire” works perfectly, especially with the affectation he gives it.

Out of the two full-length albums, Soul might be the stronger of the two. It’s got the best run of great songs throughout the project, from the mellow acoustic guitar lick of the opener Rock and Roll Found Me to the heartening love song Hell of a View, but the songs themselves here are more vivid and more striking than on Heart. Case in point are the hints of organ and choir vocals that touch up Look Good and You Know It, an inherently goofy song that rules in almost every way. A similar thing happens on Break It Kind of Guy, which takes a slightly lame disco flavor and turns into something that really grooves—even when Church’s falsetto doesn’t quite land. It’s a great metaphor for Heart & Soul: lots of fun, but with a few clunkers littered inbetween. Most of all, it’s a gift from one of our last true country rock stars.