The Best Tracks of 2015, #18


18. Eric Church, “Mr. Misunderstood” (EMI)

Of all forms of popular music, the last thing I ever expected to get into was mainstream male country. Although I have no problem getting into Americana or alt-country, the mainstream side was always a major obstacle. It was always too outwardly masculine, in that truck-driving, tar-sands working, lascivious, man cave sort of way. In other words, repellent to someone like me. But with “bro” country reaching its apex in the last couple years, along comes Eric Church, whose perfectly honed everyman persona and willingness to ditch gimmickry for sincerity won me over on last year’s album The Outsiders. Nothing on that record, however, compares to the title track to Church’s 2015 album, which is affecting a mainstream song as I have ever heard. Church’s ambition is clear: he wanted to compose a modern-day classic rock epic in the vein of “American Pie”, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t pull it off. “First time I met Alabama Hannah, I was skinny as a rail / Red hair tied up in a blue bandana / She was hotter than the devil’s Hell / She turned me on to Back Porch Pickers, Jackson Pollock, and gin / Her daddy didn’t trust my intentions / So he turned to his daddy’s old .410.” What a line. The storytelling prowess he shows actually rivals that of the Drive-By Truckers, Steve Earle, and Jason Isbell, which is the highest praise as I can make. (Spotify)