I don’t like everything Eric Church does, but at least I can appreciate “Some Of It.”
Church is stuck in a bizarre spot in the genre right now: He’s earned just enough fame to play by his own rules and thumb his nose at the kingmakers of radio, but he’s also still got enough mainstream cachet to put up some decent airplay numbers. Case in point: “Desperate Man,” which still managed to peak at #13 on Billboard’s airplay chart despite being a crazy fusion of funk, soul, and country that took the sound and spirit of the Metro-Bro era and pushed them to their logical conclusion. It worked because Church has a knack for when to push boundaries and when to retreat to familiar territory, which is where his latest single “Some Of It” springs from. It’s a relaxed, reflective review at the knowledge he’s gained over the years, and as scattershot as his message is here, at least it’s one that’s worth hearing.
Unlike the “psychedelic disco-tinged mix” from “Desperate Man,” this sound is a lot more familiar to Church fans, with an acoustic guitar carrying the melody and a drum set providing a simple, straightforward beat for the foundation (and even pushes the song forward during several drop-everything-but-the-beat sections). An organ eventually crops up in the background, and the producer shoehorns in a fuzzy, unimpressive electric guitar as well (that opening riff sets an awkward tone for the song, and the solo is unimaginative and sounds terrible), but thankfully it doesn’t detract from the mix’s overall vibe. The key here seems to be tasteful simplicity: The chord structure is basic but doesn’t feel repetitive, the minor chords are periodic but not overdone, the noise level is low but not inaudible, and the energy level is measured but not plodding. It’s an arrangement that does just enough to give the song a reflective feel that reeks of hard-won experience, but then quickly backs off the accelerator to make sure the writing is the listener’s primary focus. While I could have lived without the annoying electric guitar, overall I’m pretty impressed with how the mix enhances the song’s message.
The “outlaw” label might be a loaded one in country music, but the secret ingredient to taking such a mantle is experience: Live hard, make mistakes, and manage to survive long enough to talk about it. With his bucking of Music Row and occasionally unorthodox and experimental methods, Church is perhaps the outlaw in music today, which makes him the perfect candidate to dole out words of wisdom on life, love, and everything in between. He may not be the most powerful or emotive artist in the genre, but there’s a lot of wear and wisdom that comes through in his delivery, and the song keeps its range and flow demands minimal to ensure Church sounds comfortable and earnest as he doles out his knowledge. He not only comes across as believable in the narrator’s role, but really gets the audience to buy into what he says, and never feels preachy or judgmental when he speaks. It’s the vocal equivalent of a doctor administering a shot without the patient ever feeling it, and it may even possess some of the same healing properties.
Upon first listen, I wasn’t really impressed with the song’s writing because I felt like it wasn’t really saying anything new: The narrator’s is trying to spread the knowledge he has accumulated over time, but the life lessons include such groundbreaking topics as money not equalling wealth, sadness being fleeting, and so on. However, I also found myself nodding along and saying “yep” and “uh huh” a lot, and realized the universality of the narrator’s life lessons: Everyone’s run across a few of these same truths during their life, and the “effectively vague” lyrics thus help the song forge a stronger connection with its audience. I also like how the song handles the progression of time, as it goes from addressing “kid stuff” like beer and trucks to broaching more-mature topics like love and devotion. (As an aside, however, if Church thinks “love’s not cheap,” he should try feeding a video game console addiction. How much has this dang Switch and its fragile controllers cost me in the last two years?) It may not be the most novel of topics, but there’s a distinct lack of wisdom and reflection on the country charts right now, and Church’s sermon feels both effective and timely.
“Some Of It” isn’t really trying to make a statement about anything, but there’s something to be said for stopping and taking stock of the things you learned the hard way and how they made you the person you are now. I wish the message was a bit more coherent, but I’ll take what we get, which is a reflective, thoughtful track strengthened by Eric Church’s delivery and complementary production. Church may have earned the freedom to go crazy on tracks like “Desperate Man,” but when he cuts off all the frills and lets his work speak for itself, there aren’t many better in the business.
Rating: 7/10. I’d put this one a hair behind his protégé’s latest single, but it’s definitely worth checking out.