Song Review – Eric Church’s “Stick That In Your Country Song”

photo: Joe Pugliese

In a moment when most of us are looking for capable leaders and coming up empty, seeking out opinions and emotions we can all share together as opposed to repelling us apart, and looking for sentiments that stir us out of a languid depression at the direction that our lives and the lives of others are going, Eric Church delivers a lead single from his upcoming new album that injects an exclamation point of passion into the listener, no matter their backgrounds or political affiliations. Eric Church didn’t record “Stick That in Your Country Song” for this very moment. But it sure feels like he did.

Continuing the arc of Church’s maturation as an artist, and as a person, “Stick That In Your Country Song” comes as a ferocious rebuke of the patently sanguine, often irrelevant, and sometimes outright inappropriate country songs that seem so out of touch to our time and place. As buildings burn and a pandemic searches for it’s peak, Luke Bryan is out there singing about pouring margaritas, for example. Escapism is also a useful and important application for music that shouldn’t be written off. But apathy never should be.

“Stick That In Your Country Song” is less your typical country protest song, and more a call to action. Just this exercise of course can be read as prickly, problematic, and polarizing to some. But Church never rebukes the art of his fellow mainstream country performers specifically, or criticizes anything directly. He just challenges country music to dig deeper, like he has done with his own songs such as “Kill A Word,” and his most recent single, “Monsters,” which Church didn’t just write and record, but released to country radio, be damned what their commercial prospects may be.

But let’s be honest, it’s a little problematic, if not hypocritical for Eric Church to say what performers should be sticking into country songs in a song that’s decidedly hard rock. Of course, that ship sailed with Eric Church many years ago, but it’s worth underscoring here. “Stick That In Your Country Song” is also a little strange because it’s so expressive, but only the second song Eric Church has ever recorded that he didn’t write or co-write himself. Jeffrey Steele and Davis Naish are credited as the songwriters. But Eric Church is about the only one in the mainstream who could have delivered it, at least with any kind of impact. Putting it out there first ahead of a new album is ballsy, but typical Eric Church. Stir the pot, and get people talking. If radio actually plays it, even better.

The fingerprints of producer Jay Joyce are also on the finished product, with the recurring “Oh Oh Oh’s” that are one of Joyce’s signatures adding an element of puffiness to what is supposed to be a fiery song. Joyce’s philosophy that you can’t let a song pass by without some sort of earworm gets in the way once again. Yet it’s the emotion that is captured in “Stick That In Your Country Song” that makes it so resonant. It’s one thing to write it. It’s another to convey it, and the building crescendo of the song is hard to not get swept up in.

And as opposed to segmenting the audience with this exercise like some Americana writers do when they choose to lay all blame at a single set of feet or upon a certain segment of people, by speaking to issues that are universal—like unemployment, underserved communities, and overworked and outmatched teachers—Eric Church and the writers deliver a song that not only deserves an audience, but may actually draw one, and the ones that need to heed the message the most.

How will “Stick That In Your Country Song” do on the medium of mainstream country radio? Expect it to be shot out of a cannon due to prearranged song placement with major station-owning networks, and then meander for a while outside the Top 10, as worrisome program directors go lukewarm on it.

But chart success and sales have rarely been the aim of an Eric Church lead single. Unlike his mainstream counterparts who must acquiesce to the whims and trends to the format, Church’s boisterous and dedicated arena crowds are assured whenever the pandemic lifts, so radio is a second thought. This is also the reason that even though “Stick That In Your Country Song” is timely, welcome, and inspirational, it’s very speculative if this call to action will be in any way effective once studios open back up. Most Music Row artists record songs for radio, not for the real world.

But if you discount the energy and enthusiasm that is captured in “Stick That In Your Country Song,” and the prescient nature of the result, and the relevant nature of it’s release, you’re doing this song and Eric Church a disservice. Once again, Chief has proven himself to be one of the most bold and ballsy members of the mainstream country class, emboldened by the artistic freedom he’s earned, and willing to do something with it as a platform, and a podium.

1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)

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