Eric Church has said that “Smoke a Little Smoke” is the single that changed his career. He’s totally right. Though he’d had bigger chart hits with tamer material, “Smoke” reintroduced Church as a fully formed artist, marrying his typical swagger to a bold lyric and one of Jay Joyce’s feistiest productions. It didn’t matter that the gatekeepers at country radio winced, stalling the song at #16; fans made “Smoke” a Gold single, and critics joined them in eagerly awaiting Church’s next effort.
It was savvy move, then, to have the next album’s opening track echo “Smoke”‘s spirit. “Creepin'” runs on a similar blend of swampy acoustic guitars, thrashing electrics, and thumping percussion, and once again toys with its arrangement enough to keep the listening experience unpredictable.
But the track is hardly a Me-Too; if anything, it’s a Yes-And, conducting its groovy chaos even more confidently than its predecessor. It’s a record packed with great little hooks and changes: a rattlesnake-shake opening; some creepy-cool “bum bum”s; a snarling hair-metal solo; a series of whip-smart couplets (“Like a honey bee beatin’ on my screen door / I got a little buzz and my head is sore”). Banjos sneak in and out; drums march and crash; Church wriggles and howls as if in a fever sweat. “Creepin'” milks each moment to the max, urging you to push “Play” again and again to catch ’em all.
It was already a fantastic opening to the album. But now that Church has enough clout to also make it the radio hit “Smoke a Little Smoke” never was, I dare say it deserves to become for him what “Whiskey River” has become for Willie Nelson: a signature song, and an immortal show-starter.
Written by Eric Church & Marv Green
Listen: All Access | Spotify
I like :)
Great review, Dan – Fun as always. Loved the closing paragraph in particular.
Eric Church may be the most frustrating artist out there right now to me. Everything he says in the media makes me want to hate him, but his music tends to be some of the better mainstream fare around right now.
I agree! Eric Church is hit or miss with me, mostly miss lately. But this song is intriguing and interesting. Definitely a favourite from him!
Agree with Andrew. I have a hard time separating my personal feelings about him with his music.
Watched his Origins episode on GAC, and spent half the time thinking he was a cool guy just trying to make music he liked and the other half thinking he was just a genuine tool bag. That’s on top of the interview he gave a while back trashing everyone who had anything to do with music related reality shows and his insistence on wearing sunglasses indoors and in the dark.
That being said, I like his music, whether it’s country or country rock or some new outlaw country. It’s different, interesting, and I hope he keeps making it that way.
I’ve never paid much attention to media interviews of any sort, and as such I’m probably one of the few that is able to judge Church solely on his musical output. As a result, I absolutely love Chief and “Creepin'” is a fantastic opener! Chief was by far my favorite country release last year and I’m glad to see him releasing some of my favorites as singles. Assuming we get one more out of this album, I’d love to hear “Jack Daniels” hit the radio waves. Until then, here’s to Church hitting #1 with a song that deserves it.
I completely get where people are coming from about framing Church as a tool, but let’s also remember that this irreverent, say what’s on your mind and damn the critics attitude would have won him fans in the days of his idols. To his defense, the a lot of the industry folks appearing on reality shows at this time are making some of the blandest music of their careers. But I will always be glad for Nashville Star, who ended up finding a couple of superstars, even if it took a long time to figure that out.
…almost creepy to think that this is the same guy, who told us once what he loved the most. amazing, what one album can do for your confidence. way to go.
I modestly enjoyed Sinners Like Me, but completely tuned him out during the Carolina era because of his emerging media personality – until “Smoke a Little Smoke,” which took a long while to come out. Now that some of his music is actually awesome, I mind his unflattering soundbites a lot less. I even kind of agreed with the spirit of what he said regarding reality shows (making an artist’s legacy about something other than music); he just said it sloppily, in a manner that was bound to be taken the wrong way and incite controversy.
Wow. Man! I may have to forgive him for “Home Boy.”
This song cooks like Chris Isaak (not that he sounds anything like him, but I mean that as a high compliment). I hope he has enough radio clout by now to get an auto-add — what with the likes of Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean pushing the genre into an artless void with radio’s generous assistance, please PLEASE let them play this, and play it relentlessly, for all of our sakes. Amen.
Very well written review. Right on target regarding the play after play to catch all the facets of the tune.