ToC Critic’s Pick: Eric Church, ‘Mr. Misunderstood’ [Listen]
Eric Church’s “Mr. Misunderstood” is a country song in three acts. The title-track from his most recent album is a rebel’s “American Pie” that begins, gains steam, starts to rock and finally slows to an emotional finish.
“Mr. Misunderstood” name-checks nearly a dozen singers and sounds that likely influenced the singer’s own brand of country music. Early it’s Elvis Costello and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Later it’s painter Jackson Pollock. All of these artists — like Church himself — are men fans would have jumped over barrels to experience in a more personal way. He’s further endearing himself to his brand of misfits. His tribe just got another theme song.
“All your buddies get your rocks off on Top 40 radio / But you love your daddy’s vinyl, old time of rock and roll / Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard and think Jeff Tweedy is one bad mother / Mr. Misunderstood, Mr. Misunderstood,” he sings early, while the tempo is slow and little more than acoustic and steel guitar back him.
There’s no true chorus, just four to six verses that end with the same refrain. When the song begins to cook one finds the meat of Church’s story. “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 Jim / Her daddy didn't trust my intentions, so he turned to his daddy's old .410.”
Church wrote the song with Casey Beathard, and together the men pull from a thousand influences and images. At its core, the track is a five-minute pep talk to the freak that lives inside all of us. He keeps rattling that nerve, and it keeps feeling good.
Key Lyrics: "They tried to file my points, sand my edges, and I just grew out my hair / I'm Mr. Misunderstood, I'm Mr. Misunderstood."
Did You Know?: Alabama Hannah isn't the only woman Church calls on for his Mr. Misunderstood album. There's also a soulful rocker called "Chattanooga Lucy."
Listen to Eric Church, “Mr. Misunderstood”
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