Album Review

Eric Church, 'Chief'

July 25, 2011

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Every good artist reaches a watershed moment and Eric Church has arrived at his with “Chief.’’ The country singer-songwriter’s strong 2009 release, “Carolina,’’ proved he understood balancing the indulgence of creative impulses with contemporary country radio’s needs. On “Chief’’ - produced with an alluring expansiveness by Jay Joyce - Church surrenders to his creative nature to stunning effect. The album takes off with the aptly named “Creepin’,’’ which seeps into existence from a tinny distance, blooming into a honky-tonk roar. The funky, girl-stealing rocker “Keep On,’’ the sensuous “Like Jesus Does’’ (built on a simple electric strum and a steamy pedal steel line), and the majestic Southern rocker “Homeboy’’ are as different as they are good. Church and his co-writers also shine as clever lyricists, making his formula-following peers sound even more generic. When the sad sack on “I’m Gettin’ Stoned’’ learns his old flame is getting hitched, he offers a toast “to all us haters of old lovers’ new last names.’’ Impressively, the energy and originality are sustained as “Stoned’’ and “Over When It’s Over’’ close things out with a hypnotically rhythmic clatter and heart-rending tear, respectively. (Out tomorrow) SARAH RODMAN

ESSENTIAL “Like Jesus Does’’