Country music has long been a genre with strict guidelines steeped in tradition. But in the 21st century, some artists are challenging these conventions and bringing some interesting new sounds to country music.
Eric Church has long been known for bringing a rock swagger kind of attitude to country music, but on “The Outsiders,” out on Feb.11, he’s really pushed the envelope. From the opening bars of the titled track, with it’s wah-wah guitar and brooding atmosphere, you know you’re in for something a little different.
“Like a Wrecking Ball” features something of a soul vibe, with it’s vintage electric organ and warm vocal effects, isn’t straight country. And I didn’t know what to think when “Broke Record” hits the bridge and throws in the EDM record skip effect, but it works.
Of course, this is still a country album at heart, and Church shows he’s just as competent with traditional country. This is most apparent on the album’s ballads, but the entire record has plenty of twang and country boy attitude.
So, what is it that’s pushed Church to create such a genre-challenging record? I think the answer is in the lyrics (Church is credited as co-author on every single song, by the way).
Songs like “Dark Side” and “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young,” show an aging rock star bad boy coming to terms with the adult responsibilities – marriage, parenthood, middle age – that have snuck up on him. Perhaps the 36-year-old Church decided to channel his rebellious spirit into tearing down the walls of contemporary country music.
Whatever the motivation behind “The Outsiders,” Church has managed to put together an impressive album, complete with self-reflective ballads, novelty tunes and high-octane rockers. This album isn’t just for country die-hards, Top 40 fans and rockers will find something here too.