Two Empty Seats: Eric Church Pays Tribute to Las Vegas Victims

We Won’t Back Down!

I usually start these posts with a cheesy pun about Church but this Sunday is different. Given the horrific attack that took place exactly one week ago in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, this week’s “Sundays Are For Church” post is taking a more serious tone. My heart goes out to everyone who was the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival last Sunday and to everyone who lost somebody because of this heinous attack. My heart also goes out to the artists who were part of this festival, especially Jason Aldean and his band members who were performing when the shots began. Despite my changing musical tastes as of late, Jason Aldean will always hold a special place in my heart. I saw him in concert (with Eric Church as one of his openers) back in 2011 and his songs are still on the iPod I’ve had since 2008. (Not that my feelings on Jason Aldean matter- I wouldn’t wish this type of thing on anyone no matter what place they held in my heart!) Jason opened Saturday Night Live last night by saying, “This week we witnessed one of the worst tragedies in American history. Like everyone I’m struggling to understand what happened that night and how to pick up the pieces and start to heal.” He then played Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” which I think relayed an important message that Jason, and the country music community, won’t back down to the hatefulness that led to this attack. Well, I won’t back down either!

Two Empty Seats


On Wednesday, October 4th, Eric performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, giving a moving speech about the attack in Las Vegas before his performance. Forty-eight hours before the shooting last Sunday, Eric performed at The Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas. He spoke about how the people in that audience were his crowd- they held up their records during “Record Year” and they held up their boots during “These Boots.” During “Springsteen” he even went out into the crowd and shook people’s hands. A place that had brought Eric and his fans so much joy witnessed carnage just 48 hours later. Despite not wanting to perform on Wednesday night, Eric did so anyway, because of a video that someone sent to him of Heather Melton, the wife of Sonny Melton, who died protecting her on Sunday night. The video was Heather’s interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, in which she is wearing a Church Choir t-shirt, and talking about her husband Sonny. When asked what brought them to Las Vegas, Heather replied that they were there to see Eric Church because he was Sonny’s guy- he was “his guy.” She then mentioned that they were supposed to see Eric that very night at the Grand Ole Opry. Eric then pointed out two empty seats in the audience meant for Heather and Sonny. The reason that Eric showed up to play on Wednesday, despite not wanting to, was because of Heather and Sonny, and all the people that were in that crowd. Eric saw those people, he saw them with their boots in the air, and said “what I saw, that moment in time that was frozen, there’s no amount of bullets that can take it away.”

“Why you and why not me?” 

Eric ended his speech by saying, “That night something broke in me, on Sunday night, when that happened, and the only way I’ve ever fixed anything that’s been broken in me is with music.” He then played a song that he wrote for the Las Vegas victims called “Why Not Me.” When tragic events like this happen, we often find ourselves asking questions like “why did this person die?” and “why not me?” It’s those types of questions that this song touches on.

“Why you from Tennessee did life capture, And me from Tennessee get away?”

You can listen to Eric’s speech below along his performance of “Why Not Me” at the Grand Ole Opry.

The lyric video for this song can be found here.

A Call for Gun Control

Last Sunday, this country witnessed its largest mass murder by a firearm- 58 people were killed and nearly 500 were injured. The fact that people were killed and injured at a concert, an activity that many of us participated in, makes me sick! The fact that people are killed in movie theaters, elementary schools, college campuses, nightclubs, etc. because of mass shootings in this country makes me sick! Something needs to be done about gun control in this country. We are way past the point of needing to have a conversation about these types of acts because every time something like this happens we talk and talking gets us nowhere. Actions and real legislation involving gun control and access to guns needs to happen. In this day and age, when we are constantly bombarded with news, it’s easy to forget these types of events as our attention turns to the next big news story. But we have to remember these events, and how we felt hearing about them, because if we keep forgetting them, nothing will ever get done. And sadly, until something gets done, another mass shooting is right around the corner. And as we’ve seen, these things can happen anytime, any place, and to anyone. The people attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival were just going to a country music festival, the parents who sent their kids to school at Sandy Hook thought it was going to be a normal school day, and the next mass shooting that happens will also be talked about in this same way.  I’m glad to see members of the country music community speaking out about gun control like Roseanne Cash (Roseanne Cash: ‘The NRA Funds Domestic Terrorism’) and Caleb Keeter of the Josh Abbott Band. Caleb was there on Sunday night and spoke out saying, ““I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.” In a genre that so often glorifies guns, I hope that more country artists speak out like Roseanne and Caleb have.

Currently listening to: Tom Petty- “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” from his album Wildflowers. This week, the world lost one of its most iconic singer-songwriters. Tom Petty influenced musicians across genres, including Eric Church. In a 2012 interview about his most influential albums and songs, Eric named Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, saying ‘”Seriously — the first record I made out to in high school. ‘Nuff said.”

“Let me run with you tonight
I’ll take you on a moonlight ride”

R.I.P. Tom Petty!

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In Memory of The Original Chief

Happy first Sunday of fall, y’all! It’s time to go to (Eric) Church!

The Chief! Photo from Urban Cowboy

“Three Chords and The Truth” -Harlan Howard

It’s been said that “country music is three chords and the truth.” That saying probably comes from the fact that country music isn’t afraid to discuss the difficult issues that life throws at us. Sure, all genres deal with heartbreak, loss, and grief, but when it comes to songs about things like cancer and Alzheimer’s, I don’t think any other genre can compare to country music. Since September is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I wanted to use the last “Sundays Are For Church” post of the month to bring awareness to this disease.

Many people don’t know that Eric Church not only writes his own songs, but he’s written songs for other artists as well. He wrote “The World Needs a Drink,” which was recorded by Terri Clark and he also helped to write “All Alright,” which was featured on the The Grohl Sessions, an album from Zac Brown Band and the legendary Dave Grohl. Another of his songs was just included on William Michael Morgan’s album Vinyl. That song is “I Know Who He Is” and it fits perfectly with this week’s theme.

The Original Chief 

While William Michael Morgan might’ve been the artist who got to record this song, Eric actually sang it first. It was unofficially titled “Alzheimer’s” and Eric performed it at the Country Radio Seminar in 2015 (video below). In this song, Eric describes a situation that many people know all too well- visiting a friend or family member who can’t remember you anymore because of their battle with Alzheimer’s. For Eric Church, that person was his maternal grandfather, Rusty, the original Chief. Rusty served as the chief of police in Eric’s hometown of Granite Falls, North Carolina and he’s the man the Chief album is named after (read more about how Eric got this same nickname here.) When Eric was ten years old, his grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his experience dealing with this comes through in this song.

This song describes the conversations that one has with doctors when visiting their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s. While listening to the well-meaning doctor talking about your loved one’s condition and throwing around medical terms, all you can think about is how happy you are that they’re still around. Sadly, I think many of us can relate to the emotions that Eric is feeling in this song. For me, this song brought back memories of my time working in a retirement home throughout high school and college. In my seven years there, which was largely spent working in assisted living, I saw firsthand what Alzheimer’s and Dementia does to a person. This disease doesn’t care if you’ve got kids, a spouse, or loved ones. Or, as was the the case for Eric, if they’re “your dad, your coach, your friend.” Or “the voice behind ‘boy where the hell you been?'” Just as Eric Church watched his grandfather suffer from this disease, I saw many people’s grandparents also dealing with it. It’s a sad thing to witness up close and personal and anyone who’s ever had to deal with this can understand the words of this song all too well.

“I don’t wanna hear “he’s going downhill,”
What about “thank god he’s around still?”
Looking right through me is not at all the way I see him,
I don’t mind at all remembering for him,
He don’t have to get why I adore him,
He don’t have to know me, ’cause I know who he is”

Country music is sometimes described as being depressing, probably because of songs like this. But I don’t think these songs are meant to make you sad but instead they’re to help you realize that you’re not alone in whatever it is you’re going through. I hope this song has helped others to know that they are not alone.

“My Dad, my coach, my friend
The voice behind “Boy where the hell you been” 
The lover of my mamma through thick and thin 
The best man I’ve ever known 
All time quarterback when us kids were in a bind 
Cheek full of Red Man in a duck blind 
And no offense Doc
But if you don’t mind I’d like some time alone”

Hear William Michael Morgan’s version of this song in the video below.

 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and by 2050, this number could be as high as 16 million. For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association and to donate, please click here.

Currently listening to: Glen Campbell- “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Glen lost his life last month to Alzheimer’s. R.I.P. Rhinestone Cowboy!

“Like a rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo”

You’re Preaching to the (Eric) Church Choir

Happy Sunday, y’all! I’m happy to see that y’all are choosing to spend it in Church!

It’s been a lovely weekend here in the DMV. Yesterday I even went to a Country Bar Crawl on 14th Street. I won’t spend too much time complaining about the posers that were there but I will say that not one person commented on my Eric Church t-shirt! And also only one of the bars was playing “country” music. There were, however, lots of people wearing flannel, boots, and cowboy hats. It kinda reminded me of a line from Sturgill Simpson’s “Some Days“- “I’m tired of y’all playing dress up and trying to sing them old country songs.” Anyway, enough about that. On a more positive and way cooler note, I’m seeing Sturgill in concert on Friday night and am super excited since this will be my first time seeing him live! And I’ve even got the perfect t-shirt for the occasion, it says, “Who the Fuck is Sturgill Simpson?” Thankfully, everyone at the concert will know who the F he is. And the concert should be f’in great!

Now let’s get to the Church sermon.

“You’re Preaching to the Choir”

We all know the expression, “you’re preaching to the choir.” It’s used when someone says something that you already agree with. Or, according to Urban Dictionary (a very reputable source), “preaching to the choir means you are trying to make believers out of people who already believe, or convince people who are already convinced.” That’s often how I feel when I listen to Eric Church as many of the things he sings about express how I already think and feel. Eric Church isn’t just preaching to the Church Choir, he’s preaching to the choir as I think even people who aren’t members of the Church Choir can agree with a lot of the things he sings about.

Here are some of the statements that Eric makes in his songs that I wholeheartedly agree with, or rather, when Eric made me say, “you’re preaching to the choir!”

“Any song sung by George Strait is country at its best”

Image result for eric church and george strait
The Chief and The King. (Photo from TheBoot.com)

You got that Strait! (See what I did there?) Whether it’s “Amarillo by Morning” or “Troubadour,” you can bet that King George (as I like to call him) is singing a song that showcases country music at its best. Eric and I aren’t the only ones who feel this way about King George- the man had 60 number one hits in his 33-year career, more than any other performer in history. All Hail the King!

From: “Love Your Love The Most”

“I believe dogs are better than cats”

My loudest cheer at an Eric Church concert probably comes right after he sings this line. I’ve never felt so strongly about a song lyric before (joking, obviously). Though I do 100% agree that dogs are better than cats. Dogs love you no matter what but with cats you have to earn their love- ain’t nobody got time for that! You can’t take your cat for a walk. You can’t play fetch with your cat. Cats also won’t alert you when someone is breaking into your house. I could go on but I won’t- you guys get the point. Dogs > Cats.

From: “Before She Does” 

[Sidenote: this might be the only line in this song that I agree with. I’ll get to that in a later post.]

“Most days in life don’t stand out, but life’s about those days that will”

Ask me what I was doing on June 12th, 2012 and I wouldn’t be able to give you a very detailed answer. But ask me what I was doing on April 21, 2017 and I’ll tell you about the Eric Church concert I went to in Pittsburgh. Or ask me what I was doing on New Years Eve in 2013 and I’ll tell you about how I spent my holiday in Lebanon. These are days that stand out to me so it’s easy to remember exactly what I was doing on those days. Eric’s right in that most of the days in our life won’t stand out for being great but some days will, and it’s those days that make life worth living.

From: “Talladega” 

“I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for those I’ve loved along the way”

We’ve all lost someone at some point in our life, either from death or from life changes, like a breakup or a friendship ending. And as Eric points out, each person we’ve known and lost helped to make us who we are today. It’s a nice message- instead of being resentful to people for leaving, you should thank them for what they taught you and for making you the person you are today.

From: “Those I’ve Loved” 

“I don’t need baggy clothes or rings in my nose to be cool” 

I’ll even take this one a bit further and say that I don’t even need rings in my ears. I’ve gone 27 years without any piercings or tattoos and I’m still pretty dang cool. I don’t think the message here is that you are cool only if you don’t have piercings, tattoos, etc. but that you can be cool with or without these things. You just do you and don’t worry about trying to fit in. And if Eric doesn’t need baggy clothes or piercings to be cool then neither do I!

From: “How ‘Bout You” 

“The player’s gonna play and a haters gonna hate and a regulators born to regulate”

Since this song came out before Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” you can’t say that Eric stole this anti-player and anti-hater line from her. Although he may have been influenced by 3LW’s “Playas Gon’ Play….”  but that’s just speculation on my part. There’s not really much to say about this line as it pretty much speaks for itself. Players are gonna play, haters are gonna hate, and regulators are most definitely gonna regulate. Don’t say Eric didn’t warn you! Just stick with the Outsider crowd and you’ll be good.

From: “The Outsiders” 

“When you’re wrong you should just say so”

I already wrote about this line in my Father’s Day post, “Acting Like a Three Year Old: A Father’s Day Post,” but it’s such an important lesson that I have to include it again. Just admit when you’re wrong- it sounds simple but can actually be quite difficult, which is why this line can’t be emphasized enough. Fessing up to doing something wrong can be difficult at times but you’ll always feel better after you do it. And it’s also part of being a decent human being. If a three year old can do it, so can us adults!

From: “Three Year Old” 

Sundays are for Preaching

These are just a few of the examples of Eric Church preaching to the (Eric) Church Choir! I don’t mind listening to his preaching though, especially since I can often use the reminder. In fact, I might be going to hear him do some preachin’ next Sunday at the Outlaw Country Festival. After all, Sundays are for Church (and for Preachin’)!

 

Currently listening to: 3LW- “Playas Gon’ Play” and “No More (Baby I’ma Do Right).” Some of you may not know that I missed my true calling in life of being in an all girls group. I could’ve seen myself in a 3LW type group, or maybe even TLC. As long as I got to break out in a rap every once in a while, I would’ve been content. Since that never happened (and most likely never will), I’ll stick to dancing (and rapping) in my living room to these songs and pretending I’m in one.

“Playas, they gonna play
And haters, they gonna hate
Ballers, they gonna ball
Shot callers, they gonna call
That ain’t got nothin’ to do
With me and you
That’s the way it is
That’s the way it is”

Friends I’ve Met through (Eric) Church

I hope everyone is having a great Sunday catching up with all of their Church friends! I’ve been catching up with some of my favorite people that I’ve met through Church and wanted to introduce y’all to some of these guys. These are all friends that I’ve met through Church, or rather, in Eric Church songs. If it hadn’t been for Church, me and these friends might’ve never met!

Without further ado, let’s get the introductions started!

My Friend Danny

On Mr. Misunderstood On the Rocks Live & (Mostly) Unplugged, Eric’s live album from his shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre last summer, he includes a version of “Mistress Named Music,” which is the “Mistress Named Music-Red Rocks Medley.” In the middle of this song, he breaks out into Bob Seger, Loggins and Messina, Little Feat, Billy Joel, and George Strait, turning this song into an almost nine minute long medley with his musical idols weaved into the middle of it. One of the songs that he sings is “Danny’s Song” by Loggins and Messina off of their Sittin’ In album. Even though Eric only sings the chorus in this song, it was enough to make me wanna find the whole song. I instantly fell in love with this song and am so thankful that Danny (and his song) are now a part of my life.

It was also in this song that I met Lowell George, Bill Payne, Roy Estrada, and Richie Hayward aka the guys of Little Feat. Together me and these guys have gone from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonapah- the places mentioned in their song “Willin‘,” which Eric also sings in this medley.

My Voodoo Queen Friend Marie Laveau 

In “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)” Eric references Bobby Bare and it was through this song that he and I first met. And as Church connections usually go, Bobby Bare then introduced me to Marie Laveau. Now I’m not one to partake in Church gossip, but if I was, Marie Laveau would definitely be at the center of it. I mean, after all, she’s a voodoo queen who casts spells on men and makes them disappear. While she may be the topic of Church gossip, we could all use a friend who possesses the power to make people disappear, so I’m keeping her around!

My Red Headed Stranger Friend

It was at Church that I met a red headed stranger from Blue Rock, Montana. Over time, this stranger and I have become quite good friends and I’m happy to say that he’s no longer a stranger (nor a redhead as he’s mostly grey these days). The friend I’m talking about is none other than Willie Nelson. His album, “Red Headed Stranger” is one that Eric rediscovers during his “Record Year,” while also getting down with some James Brown. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know who was Willie Nelson was but learning about his discography, and specifically about the Red Headed Stranger album, was something that came from Church. If I could offer one piece of advice for getting to know my Red Headed Stranger friend, it would be “don’t cross him [and] don’t boss him!”

Eric also sings about New Grass Revival in “Record Year.” Apparently, I had found them years ago in the form of Garth Brooks’ “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and just didn’t know it. This is one of my favorite Garth songs (the live version, especially!) but I gotta give credit where credit is due because if it weren’t for NGR this song wouldn’t exist.

For more NGR, check out “In The Middle of the Night,” which I discovered on Eric’s Spotify playlist, “Round Here Buzz.”

My Misunderstood Friends

“Now, your buddies get their rocks off on Top 40 radio
But you love your daddy’s vinyl, old-time rock and roll
Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and think Jeff Tweedy
Is one bad mother”

I wrote about Ray Wylie Hubbard in my post about finding the devil through Church. Ironically, he’s been one of my favorite people I’ve met through Church. Hubbard was mentioned in “Mr. Misunderstood” along with Elvis Costello and Jeff Tweedy. Of course I knew who Elvis Costello was before Eric name dropped him in “Mr. Misunderstood,” but despite knowing who he was, I never gave him much attention, that was until Eric convinced me to give him a fair chance. The first Elvis Costello song that I really came to like was “A Good Year for the Roses.” After looking this song up, it was easy to see why I liked this song so much- it was originally a country song, first sang by George Jones. From Church to Costello to The Possum, the connections I’ve made through Church have been endless!

While I’m still not sure if Jeff Tweedy is really one bad mother, I’ve been trying my hardest to get into Wilco, which has been Tweedy’s band since 1994. One Wilco song I’ve found that I really like is “Jesus, etc.” (fitting for Church, right?) It’s been said that Eric’s “Mr. Misunderstood” resembles a 1996 song from Wilco titled, “Misunderstood” in that it “matches a touch of melody and tempo” and shares themes found in this song. If Jeff Tweedy was the inspiration behind “Mr. Misunderstood,” then I guess he really is one bad mother.

I’m happy to have Tweedy join my group of misunderstood Church friends along with Costello and Hubbard. After all, Church is supposed to be about inclusion, right?

Are You Sure Eric Done It This Way? 

Eric’s Carolina album includes the song, “Lotta Boot Left to Fill,” in which he sings, “I don’t think Waylon done it this way, And if he was here he’d say Hoss neither did Hank.” This line is inspired by a Waylon Jennings song, “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” In these two songs, Waylon and Eric are each critical of the state of country music at the time of their writing and wonder about how their idols did things in their time. For Waylon, it was Hank Williams and for Eric it was Waylon Jennings that set the gold standard on how things should be done. I have no doubt that this song played a huge role in my love of Waylon Jennings that started years ago as it began around the same time that I saw Eric perform this song in concert back in 2011. Out of all of my Church friends, I’d have to say that Waylon and I are the closest. I mean, after all, ladies do love outlaws!

There’s already a song about about Eric’s music (Marc Leach’s “She Don’t Go To Church,” which I wrote about here) and I wouldn’t be surprised if years from now someone is singing, “Are You Sure Eric Done It This Way?”

That’s How I Got to Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bare, and Whitey Morgan

I mentioned in my post about Eric’s live performances that he often plays a song specific to the city that he’s in when he’s on tour. So when Eric performed in Southaven, Mississippi, which is just minutes outside of Memphis, it only made sense that “That’s How I Got to Memphis” was on the setlist. Originally sung by Tom T. Hall, this song has been covered by Bobby Bare, Whitey Morgan, Roseanne Cash, The Avett Brothers, Buddy Miller, and many others. I’m not sure how these guys got there, but Eric Church is how I got to Memphis. He’s also how I made some friends named Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bare, and Whitey Morgan.

Meeting Friends through Church Recommendations 

It hasn’t just been through his music that Eric has turned me on to new artists but also through his recommendations. In an interview Eric did with Bobby Bones three years ago (that I watched on YouTube in London- before I even knew who Bobby Bones was), Bobby asked what artists Eric liked and he gave the names Amos Lee and Brandy Clark. Immediately after, I gave each of these artists a listen and became fans of both. To this day, Amos Lee’s “Chill In the Air” is still one of my all-time favorite songs. I also found Brandy Clark’s “Stripes” which led me to her first album, 12 Stories. A few months later, after I had returned from London, Brandy was the opening act at an Eric Church concert that I attended and I made sure to meet her and get her autograph that night. My only regret about doing this was that I practically missed all of Dwight Yoakam’s performance while I was waiting in line to meet her. Sorry, Dwight!

Amos and Brandy are two examples of friends that I didn’t necessarily meet through Church but rather because Church recommended them to me.

Church Friends Ain’t Just for Sunday Mornings 

I knew that going to Church was good for you but I never knew it could lead to so many great friendships! Just look at all the awesome people I’ve added to my friends circle because of Church!

Though these might be my Church friends, I prefer seeing them on Friday nights, not Sunday mornings, so this coming Friday (8/18), I’ll be going to see Ray Wylie Hubbard at Hill Country BBQ in Washington, DC. Come on out if you’re in the area!

Currently listening to: Dwight Yoakam- “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere.” Sorry for missing your performance that one time, Dwight!

Sinners Like Me Go To Church on Sundays

I finally got myself back to Church on a Sunday! I’m sorry for the not-so-great church attendance these past few Sundays- I’ll be sure to drop an extra $20 in the offering plate today to make up for it!

This month, two of Eric’s albums celebrated anniversaries. Eric’s freshman album Sinners Like Me celebrated its eleventh anniversary and Chief, his third album, celebrated its sixth anniversary. This Sunday, especially since I’m feeling like quite the sinner with my poor Church attendance, I’m gonna focus on the album that started it all, Sinners Like Me. 

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A Good First Impression 

They say you only get one chance to make a first impression and boy did Eric make an unforgettable one with Sinners Like Me. With his first album, Eric made sure to include songs that show his range as an artist- from concert favorites like “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag” and “These Boots” to serious songs like “The Hard Way;” from great storytelling songs like “Lightning” to songs that make you grin like “Two Pink Lines.” This is also the album that contains my all-time favorite Church hymn- “Can’t Take It With You” (which I discuss in detail here.) As you make your way through the twelve tracks on this album you really get a sense of who Eric is not only as a songwriter and an artist, but as a person. For many of us, this album was the reason we started going to Church.

The singles that came from this album were “How ‘Bout You,” “Two Pink Lines,” “Guys Like Me,” and “Sinners Like Me,” the title track. The first single, “How ‘Bout You” was the first Eric Church song I remember hearing on the radio. In this song, Eric let us know right off the bat exactly who he was. In regards to his style, he sang, “I don’t need baggy clothes, or rings in my nose to be cool” and when it came to his blue collar work ethic he let us know that he “ain’t got no blue-blood trust fund [he] can dip into.” He was confident in knowing who he was and made sure everyone else knew it too. He also made you think about the kind of person that you are by repeatedly asking, “how ’bout you?” Well, Eric, my nose ain’t pierced and I don’t have a trust fund either so I guess that makes us both a part of the chosen few! I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that this song was my first introduction to Eric Church and for that reason it holds a special place in my heart.

I know where I come from
How ’bout you?
I don’t need baggy clothes,
Or rings in my nose to be cool.
The scars on my knuckles,
Match these scuffs on these cowboy boots.
An’ there’s a whole lot more like me
How ’bout you?

It wouldn’t be Church if we didn’t talk about sinning now would it? In the album’s title track, “Sinners Like Me,” Eric sings about coming from a long of sinners just like himself. However, being a sinner isn’t just a trait that runs in the Church family because, as he sings in this song, when he dies he’ll find himself standing in a long line of sinners just like him. Thank goodness there’s Church for all those sinners to go to on Sundays!

The pinnacle song on this album is “Lightning,” the album’s only song written solely by Eric. This song is so important because it was this song that earned Eric his publishing deal, which should come as no surprise as you listen to its lyrics. “Lightning” is everything that a storytelling country song should be and it serves as a testament to Eric’s talent as a songwriter. It takes someone truly talented to put into song the final thoughts of a man awaiting his death while sitting in an electric chair. Eric manages to do just that in about five minutes time. In fact, Eric manages to capture this death row inmate’s life in song form so well that it was featured on Rolling Stone’s list of 17 Country Songs That Would Make Great Movies. RS lists Bryan Cranston as the suggested actor who should play the death row inmate in that movie. Now that’s a movie that I would definitely pay to see! Until that movie gets made, I’ll just keep watching the music video (check out Eric with his long hair!!)

Other songs featured on this album include “What I Almost Was,” “Livin’ Part of Life,” and “Before She Does.” Eric still plays some of these songs from time to time at his concerts, showing that the impression this album left on his fans is one long enough to last eleven years (and I’m sure many more to come!)

I Pledge Allegiance to “The Hag”

The most impressive thing about this album, in my opinion, is that Merle Haggard sings on the song that was written about him- “Pledge Allegiance To The Hag.” The fact that the greatest country artist of all time (this is a fact, not an opinion) sang on Eric Church’s very first album says a great deal about what The Hag must’ve thought about Eric and his music. If there’s one artist that deserves a song about having allegiance pledged to them, it’s Merle. And if any artist should get the honor of singing that song, it’s Eric Church!

Sins and Blasphemy 

I’ve heard that an artist’s first album is usually their best because they have their whole life to write it, whereas the albums that come after that are usually written in a much shorter time frame, meaning they’re often not as good. Although Sinners Like Me is a great album, I don’t think that’s true for Eric. Each of his five albums (so far) are so different from one another and they are all great in their own individual way. His albums aren’t just a collection of singles, they’re albums, meant to be listened to as such. To say that one of his albums is better than another would be blasphemy, something we definitely don’t wanna do at Church!

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I’m still playing Sinners Like Me eleven years after it was released and I’m sure I’ll still be playing it for years to come. It’s probably because I like my country rockin’. How ’bout you?

Happy Anniversary Sinners Like Me and Chief! 

Currently listening to: Merle Haggard (a.k.a. The Hag)- “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink.” Gotta pledge my allegiance to the Hag, as Eric would say!

Finding the Devil Through Church

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I hope everyone enjoyed the first July Saturday night of the year last night! l’m impressed to see that you guys made it to Church this Sunday!

Today’s post in the “Sundays Are For Church” series is about me finding the devil through Church. I know y’all are probably thinking that I’ve up and joined the Church of Satan but don’t worry, I still belong to the Church of Eric. Stick with me through this post and everything will all make sense.

Mr. Misunderstood (I Understand)

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Although I probably would’ve found Ray Wylie Hubbard eventually, it took one misunderstood guy to first make the introduction. Eric describes “Mr. Misunderstood” as being the “weird kid in his high-top shoes, sitting in the back of the class” who was “always left out, never fit in.” While his friends were listening to the Top 40 radio, Mr. Misunderstood preferred his dad’s vinyl, which included artists like Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Jeff Tweedy. I figured if Ray Wylie Hubbard was good enough for Mr. Misunderstood that I too should give him a listen and so I did just that. This is how I wound up finding the devil.

“Now, your buddies get their rocks off on Top 40 radio
But you love your daddy’s vinyl, old-time rock and roll
Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and think Jeff Tweedy is one bad mother
Mr. Misunderstood, Mr. Misunderstood”

Hubbard Goes to Hell

The first time I listened to Ray Wylie Hubbard’s 1999 song, “Conversation with the Devil,” I was hooked. What caught my attention wasn’t a catchy chorus (because it has no chorus) but rather it was the storytelling aspect of this song. It’s a narrative in which Hubbard walks you through a dream he had about being cast into hell and having a conversation with the devil, as the song title states.

As one would expect, he’s confused as to why he’s there. After all, Hubbard ain’t a bad guy. He tries to convince the devil of this by letting him know that he always pays his union dues and he doesn’t stay in the passing lane (this is unheard of in the D.C. area- this man is a saint!) The devil comes right back at him and asks him about all of the whiskey and the cocaine that he’s used, to which Hubbard replies with what is probably one of the best lines in the song, “Well, yeah, but that’s no reason to throw me in Hell, ‘Cause I didn’t use the cocaine to get high I just liked the way it smelled.”

The devil takes Hubbard on a tour of hell and all of the unlucky people who wound up there. He starts by pointing out the preachers, or “clowns” as he calls them, and expresses his dislike for them, after all, they’re always blaming him for everything wrong and they’re hypocrites.

“Over there’s where we put the preachers, I never liked those clowns
They’re always blaming me for everything wrong under the sun
It ain’t that harder to do what’s right, it’s just maybe not as much fun
Then they walk around thinking they’re better than me and you
And then they get caught in a motel room
Doing what they said not to do”

The next stop is the fiery lake, where all of the murderers and the rapists go, along with “most of the politicians and the cops on the take.” Mothers who wait until they get to K-Mart to spank their kids also wind up here along with dads who abandon their daughters and sons and “anybody who hurts a child’s gonna burn until it’s done” in this lake of fire.

If all of these people are in hell, Hubbard wants to know who’s up in heaven, to which the devil replies:

“Oh, some saints and mystics and students of Metaphysics 101.
People who care and share and love and try to do what’s right.
Beautiful old souls who read little stories to their babies every night.”

The devil also makes it clear that “What you won’t find up in heaven are Christian Coalition right-wing conservatives, country program directors, and Nashville Record executives.” Damn.

After conversing some more with the devil, Hubbard decides it might be best to try and suck up to him. He brings up the time that the devil went down to Georgia and played fiddle against a kid and lost. In his attempt to earn the devil’s favor, Hubbard tells him, “To be honest, I thought your solo was the better of the two.” Even if Hubbard was just sucking up, I completely agree with him on this, which worries me that the devil and I might actually get along quite well…

Hubbard soon wakes up from his dream, which he takes a sign from God. He then decides to change his ways including giving up red meat. As Hubbard proves from his own personal experience of meeting the devil in a dream, “Some get spiritual ’cause they see the light, And some ’cause they feel the heat.” I guess he had to feel the heat.

With songs like this, it’s easy to see why Mr. Misunderstood preferred listening to his dad’s vinyl over the Top 40 radio.

Getting to the Devil as Fast as I Can

This isn’t the only time that Eric and Mr. Hubbard have led me to the devil. In fact, they’re currently leading me there now with the help of Lucinda Williams. Due out in August is Hubbard’s next album, “Tell the Devil I’m Getting There as Fast as I Can.” The title track from this album features both Eric Church and Lucinda Williams who help Hubbard sing the chorus.

If you feel like indulging your inner Mr. Misunderstood, some other Hubbard songs that I would recommend are “Snake Farm” and “Drunken Poet’s Dream.”

If you’re gonna be in Washington, D.C. on August 17th and 18th, Ray Wylie Hubbard will be at Hill Country BBQ. Get your tickets here!

Ms. Misunderstood 

Unfortunately, I didn’t find Ray Wylie Hubbard when I was in high school like Mr. Misunderstood did. Instead, I had my own sort of “Ms. Misunderstood” discovery in high school when I began listening to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and AC/DC. Perhaps I had already started heading towards the devil during these years through songs like “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Highway to Hell,” and “Hells Bells.”

Locking Horns With the Devil

I’m not really sure what my affection for songs about the devil says about me but songs about this pitchfork-wielding guy with horns always seem to catch my attention. Church has helped me find the devil on other occasions too including through his song, “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)” from The Outsiders album. The song starts off with a spoken monologue (Princess of Darkness) that leads into “Devil, Devil,” which describes a man who has just been left by his woman and now finds the devil preying on his mind as he contemplates suicide with “one foot on the platform and the other on a train.” At the end of the song he asks an angel with a “heavenly body in holy jeans” to wrap him in her wings and love the devil out of him. The words “devil, devil” are repeated up until the song comes to an end and no matter what your relationship to the devil may be, you’re sure to find yourself singing along and calling out the devil’s name.

“Devil, devil, I feel you preying on my mind
I got nine things going wrong right now
And her leaving makes a dime
I’m mad as hell, and drunk, and well
Tonight, I guess we’ll see
If devil, devil, you’re bad enough to lock horns with me”

When Church Beat the Devil

One of the most important songs in Eric Church’s life deals with the devil- that song is Kris Kristofferson’s “To Beat The Devil,” which Eric credits for saving his life many years ago. He talks about the impact that this song had on him right before playing this song at The Life & Times of Kris Kristoffersona filmed concert held in tribute to Kris Kristofferson in March 2016. Eric also discusses the impact that this song had on his life and career in a 2015 Rolling Stone article, saying,

“This song saved my life, pretty much. Kept me in Nashville when I wanted to quit. I was broke. I’d been in town more than a year, working at the Home Shopping Network. I remember putting in the Kristofferson CD I had, and that’s what “To Beat the Devil” talks about: being in town and having a rough patch and being a songwriter. The next day, I got a call that ended up leading to a record deal. That one more day meant this world.”

I know that I speak for a lot of people when I say that I’m glad Kris Kristofferson taught Eric how to beat the devil!

In “To Beat the Devil,” Kristofferson sings about being down and out in Music City. This song reminds me of “Prelude: Princess of Darkness” where Eric sings about the people who didn’t make it in Nashville. What these two songs share is that they show you the ugly side of Nashville- the struggling people who are trying to make it and the ones who never do.

“The devil walks among us folks and Nashville is his bride”
-Eric Church, “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)”

I think it’s safe to say that Church and Kristofferson will agree with the devil in Hubbard’s “Conversation with the Devil” when he said that what you wont find in heaven are “country program directors and Nashville record executives.” As Eric sings in “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness),” – “devil, you can go screw yourself, and then go straight to hell.”

 

Currently listening to: Ray Wylie Hubbard and Eric Church- “Screw You We’re From Texas” (from Eric’s show in Dallas on the Holdin’ My Own Tour where he called Hubbard on stage to sing with him)

A View From the Church Pew

Put on your Sunday best…it’s time for Church!

I know that I already discussed my love for Eric Church in my first post in the “Sundays Are For Church” series but in case y’all need a reminder- I’m a REALLY big fan. I even had a friend recently ask me if I moved to Falls Church because of Eric Church (fair question, but the answer is no.) As I’ve already mentioned, the first reason I give when people ask me why I love Eric Church so much is that he’s a gifted songwriter. My second reason? He’s an incredible performer.

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The First Time I Went to Church

Eric Church first won me over when I saw him perform as one of the opening acts for Jason Aldean at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA in March 2011. Aldean might’ve been the headlining act but it was Eric’s performance that made that night memorable for me. I was already familiar with some of Eric’s music and liked the songs of his that I knew like “Love Your Love the Most” and “Hell on the Heart.” However, it wasn’t until I saw him perform live that I became a true fan. I can still remember how energetic his performance was that night over six years ago- at one point he even sprayed his can of beer on the crowd (which must’ve been the trend that night as the lady in front of me also spilled her beer on the guy in front of her, however, he was not so thrilled.) It was also my first time hearing some of his songs that are regular crowd favorites and that I now look forward to hearing each time I see him in concert like “Lotta Boot Left To Fill.”

Attending an Eric Church concert is an experience you won’t forget. If you’ve ever seen him live, you can surely attest to this. Below I have provided a rundown of some of my favorite things about being in the pews at a Church service.

Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Vamanos, Vamanos

If you’ve ever been to an MLB game, you know that when the player walks up to bat, a song of their choice is played. Whenever the topic comes up amongst friends about what our own walk-up song would be (please, like you’d ever see me playing baseball), my answer is always, “the same song that Eric Church plays before coming out on stage at his concerts.” That song is “Electric Worry” by Clutch. More specifically, I would play the chorus which goes, “bang, bang, bang, bang, vamanos, vamanos” (0:57 in the video link above) as this is the part of the song that I think gets people fired up the most and is probably why Eric plays this song before taking the stage.

It look a few concerts for me to catch on that Eric plays this song before coming out on stage at each of his shows. Although on his most recent Holdin’ My Own Tour, it was played right before his second set with Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” (originally recorded by Leonard Cohen) being played before the first set (Eric also covers this song on his most recent live album, Mr. Misunderstood on the Rocks.) I enjoy the familiarity that comes with hearing this song- you know that when it comes on you better have your butt in your seat and be ready for the show to start. When Clutch tells Eric to “vamanos, vamonos” he listens.

These Boots are Made for Waving in the Air 

Like a perfectly choreographed dance, when Eric starts playing “These Boots,” his fans take off one boot and wave it around in the air. If you’re close enough to the stage, and have a decent pitching arm on you, your boot might wind up on stage for Eric to sign and throw back to you. It doesn’t matter where you’re at in the crowd though, when you hear Eric say, “these boots,” you take off your boot and join in with the rest of the crowd as they too wave their boot in the air.

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“An’ tip our hats an’ raise our glasses of cold, cold beer”

Maybe this is what that lady in Charlottesville was doing when she spilt her beer on that guy’s head. I mean, poor guy, but that lady was just following Eric’s instructions as they are clearly stated in “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag.” And when Eric tells you to tip your hat and raise your glass of cold beer, you do it! This song is a longtime fan favorite and you can pretty much bet on Eric performing this song on any given night.

Merle Haggard (a.k.a. the Hag) passed away last year (R.I.P.) and at the two concerts I’ve been to since his passing, Eric has displayed his picture on the big screens at the end of this song. Needless to say, the crowd went wild with cheers and applause- truly pledging their allegiance to the Hag!

Location, Location, Location 

It doesn’t matter if you’re in London, England or London, Ontario- when Eric performs “Springsteen” you can bet that he’s gonna change up the end of the song to tailor it for the city that he’s in. For example, “like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night” becomes “like a soundtrack to a Washington, DC Tuesday night.” On the Holdin’ My Own Tour, Eric also incorporated songs about the city that he was in into his setlist. When I went to his concert in Pittsburgh, he played Sawyer Brown’s “Six Days on the Road” (the first line reading, “well, I pulled out of Pittsburgh, rolling down the eastern seaboard.”) In Louisville, he played “Blue Moon of Kentucky” as well as songs by The Kentucky Headhunters. Not only does Eric sing about the city that he’s in but he also incorporates local people into his shows. His song “Mistress Named Music” features a choir and in each city Eric got a local choir group to perform this song with him. At his Washington, DC show it was the choir from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, VA that had the honor of joining him on stage for this song. These little touches, like having Eric incorporate your city into his songs, help to make the night special.

Of course, he’s free to change this up, especially if something has recently happened that Eric feels is more important to sing about. When I saw him in Washington, DC in May, it was right after the passing of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell (R.I.P.) so Eric played a song in memory of him instead. The song he chose was Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage,” which was also later recorded by Johnny Cash.

The Chief Covers The Boss

If you’re a fan of Bruce Springsteen then you’re in luck because there’s a pretty good chance that Eric will play one of his songs right before jumping into “Springsteen.” I’ve heard him sing  both “Thunder Road” and “Born in the U.S.A.” at his shows. And if you were lucky enough to see him in Philadelphia this year, you got to hear him perform both a song about your city as well as a Springsteen song with “Streets of Philadelphia.”

Chief Merch 

Eric’s concerts are the perfect place to grab some new pieces for your wardrobe. Here you’ll find t-shirts for sale with slogans like “I’m A Sinner Somebody Take Me To Church” and “Good Girls Never Miss Church,” of which I own both. You can also pick up a new beer koozie, trucker hat, or bottle opener while you’re at it.

Something really cool that Eric started doing on the Holdin’ On My Own Tour is selling limited edition posters that are specific to the city that he’s in. I was lucky enough to score both the Pittsburgh and Washington, DC ones! Check out these bad boys below.

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Holdin’ My Own Tour in Pittsburgh (April 2017)
Holdin’ My Own Tour in Washington, DC (May 2017)

Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots….of Jack

I’ve seen Eric get his ass kicked on stage a time or two. After all, Jack Daniels does pack a mean punch. I don’t think I’ve ever been to another concert where the artist took shots of whiskey mid-performance but what else are you supposed to do when you’re singing a song about “Jack Daniels?

The Choir Loft

Eric cares about the fan experience and this is reflected in every aspect of his shows right down to the stage setup. Starting with The Outsiders World Tour in 2014, Eric created the Choir Loft, which are the seats located behind the stage that he opened up to create a 360-degree stage. Eric’s goal in creating the Choir Loft is to replicate the feel that his shows had from the very beginning when he was performing in small rooms, clubs, and bars. Having experienced a view from the Church Choir loft on three occasions now, I can attest to the fact that they are great seats. Eric always makes sure to include those in the Choir Loft during his shows by walking around and making full use of the 360-degree stage as he performs.

And you know what’s great about being in this Church Choir Loft? You don’t have to wear those ugly choir robes!

You’d Better Get Your Butt to Church

If you haven’t been to an Eric Church concert but still want a taste of what one is like, I suggest listening to his two live albums, Caught In The Act and Mr. Misunderstood on the Rocks, the latter recorded during his two-day concert series at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in August 2016. Even though these albums are great nothing beats actually being in the Church pew!

Eric is the epitome of what it means to be an entertainer. If you ever get a chance to be a part of the Church congregation, I suggest you take it. I can guarantee that some melodies will turn into memories!

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Currently listening to: Johnny Cash- “Rusty Cage” (after all, Eric’s the one who introduced me to this song)