Eric Church – “Hell On The Heart”
Songwriters: Eric Church, Deric Ruttan and Jeremy Spillman.
Once you get through the tongue-twisting opening lines of Eric Church’s latest single “Hell On The Heart,” the rest of the song can be boiled down to a string of romantic clichés pulled straight from its lyrics.
You see, there’s this girl who is “as pretty as a picture,” but watch out, mister, “I can read your face like a book.” She might “bring the sunshine” and “do all the wrong things right,” but as soon as you start to “feel that rush” she’ll just end up “messing with your head.”
And to that long, tired list, I’ll add two more clichés of my own: This tune is catchy as hell, and I can’t get it out of my head.
Church, whose outlaw-lite performances on sophomore effort Carolina have drawn comparisons to a rocking Waylon Jennings, continues to err on the lyrically lazy side of caution. He also, however, has a knack for composing a hook that can make even the most inane song (here’s looking at you, “Two Pink Lines”) stick with listeners after its three minutes expire.
He continues that trend, to a more satisfying effect, on “Hell On The Heart” : ”She’s as pretty as a picture/Every bit as funny as she is smart/Got a smile that’ll hold you together/And a touch that’ll tear you apart.” On paper, it’s simple at best, but Church’s performance elevates the song into an enjoyable exercise in feel-good fluff.
That capable delivery sits on top of a driving rhythm that effectively connects with the song’s unusual point of view. Similar to Terri Clark’s “Hard On The Heart” in both title and theme, the singer is having a dude to dude talk about the dangerous charms of a beautiful girl, but it’s unclear if he is her friend, a regretful ex-lover or if the song is just an elaborate ruse to scare off a potential new love interest from taking his girl.
The only thing more disappointing than the tune’s lyrics, however, is its production. Jay Joyce, who also worked with Church on his debut album Sinners Like Me, puts together an awkward assortment of sounds to produce an odd combination of sixties rock and roll and distracting banjo and guitar phrases.
Among fellow young male singers such as Dierks Bentley and Jason Aldean, Church has yet to become memorable enough to stand out in a crowd that decisively falls into beer drinkin’ party boys and hard workin’ country boys. “Hell On The Heart,” on the heels of his hit “Love Your Love The Most,” should lift Church out from under the radar and into a more permanent place in that mainstream country landscape.
And for once, that actually sounds like a good thing.
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