Single Review: Maren Morris, “My Church”

“My Church”
Maren Morris

Written by Maren Morris and busbee

The most obvious points of comparison for singer-songwriter Maren Morris and her single “My Church” are to Sheryl Crow’s self-titled masterpiece and its follow-up, The Globe Sessions. Though Crow spent the 1990s as a pop star, her ties to the country genre were clear on those records. “If It Makes You Happy” was always a honky-tonk anthem waiting to happen, while “The Difficult Kind,” “Home,” and “Mississippi” all sound more recognizably country than do current chart-topping hits by Sam Hunt, Kelsea Ballerini, and Thomas Rhett.

There are far worse artists for Morris to draw comparisons to than Crow, in other words.

“My Church” opens with some simple acoustic guitar strums and muffled handclap percussion before the proper drums kick in. The minimalism of the arrangement allows Morris to drawl out a winning confession of her sins: “I’ve cussed on a Sunday,” is a killer opening line, which she follows up with the admission, “I’ve fallen from grace a few too many times.” Morris builds a first impression upon her fallibility and imperfections, but she nonetheless makes her introduction with a confident handshake.

But “My Church” isn’t simply an exercise in bad-girl posturing. Morris is more interested in the redemptive power of music and how country music, specifically, has helped her grow and to learn more about herself. “I find holy redemption,” she observes, “When I put this car in drive, roll the windows down and turn up the dial.”

The chorus then soars into a full-on gospel rave. Girl hits her hallelujah as she launches into the song’s massive melodic hook. “I find my soul revival singing every single verse / Yeah, I guess that’s my church” might rankle more devout listeners, but Morris sings the line as a powerful, committed testimony. She name-checks Hank Sr. and Johnny Cash as her ministers of choice, and she implores her listeners to give her a rousing “Amen.”

If there’s a knock against “My Church,” it’s that it plays a bit too much like a commercial for “The Highway FM,” which figures prominently in the chorus. Granted, “The Highway” has a unique format compared to most other country radio stations, but the current climate at country radio is hardly something worth celebrating—particularly for a woman trying to break through with a song that lays bare her unique POV. The idea that anyone is going to bat for country radio as the source of their personal salvation is, at the very least, an anachronism.

Still, “My Church” announces Morris as a major new talent. Her voice is a particularly impressive instrument. She hits all of the higher notes in the chorus without straining or shouting, and there’s a ragged soulfulness to her timbre that stands out among many of her thin-voiced contemporaries. A young artist who is a great singer with a narrative voice that’s nearly as strong? Can I get a Hallelujah?

Grade: A-



  1. Decent song – not sure I think it is worth an A
    Also I am not a big Sheryl Crow fan.

    This song would not have me reaching to change the radio station, so I guess on that basis alone, it is worth a B or B+

  2. Just read that she will be an opener on Keith Urban’s 2016 Tour.
    Never heard of her until reading that and then came here and see this. I liked the song.

  3. Just like “The BBQ Bible”, another secular usage of Christian concepts. I’m tired of this trend. “Take Me to Church” was downright offensive and now this tune turns country legends (who were Christian) into expressions of religious icons on a musical scale. I can only imagine the outcry if a song or a book used another religion’s traits as a metaphor or as a vehicle to express secular spirituality. The BBQ Koran or Take Me to the Synagogue, anyone?

    But I digress. Frankly, the lyrics just describe another rebel in country music. Cussed, cheated and lied. Time to insert the “look out, we have a badass over here” meme. The song needs another verse. We have two stanzas and repeats of the chorus. She namedrops Cash and Hank (never heard of those two mentioned before!) and sings copy and paste. It sounds like a teenager experiencing rebellion and furiously writing down lyrics in her diary. But hey, it is not from a radio star (though it has reached #59 on the charts), so I can dig the namedropping of two Mount Rushmore legends.

    Finally, the Highway FM reference is a blatant cry to “play me.” The amount of branding in country music has grown larger than a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Here it is especially apparent. Good thing our speaker has a subscription to Sirius/XM or she might have to use the standard dial like the rest of us believers.

    From a songwriting standpoint is it better than most of the songs on the radio? Sure, but so are Lonestar’s album tracks.

  4. Aw, Country Knightt. Poor baby can’t create so he critiques. You’ll be the first one in line for an aotigraph when she hits #1.

  5. Interesting “argument”, considering the entire purpose of this site is to critique music or do you want everyone to just say “I love it!”?

    I doubt I will ever be in line for an “aotigraph.”

    We will have a discussion when you learn how to spell.

    -Signed Country “Knightt”

  6. Love this song and Maren. It’s one that I’ve been putting on repeat, often. What a voice.

    I saw the nod to The Highway FM as a clever move on her part to rally up some support from them. Not that a woman should have to resort to such methods to get radio play, but good for her for recognizing and working the current system to her benefit.

  7. I really like the feel of this song. I’ve listened to it several times, and will continue to do so. I don’t think it’s A-range (I’d probably give it a B or B-), but it will definitely be a guilty pleasure.

    I agree that The Highway FM line sounds like a commercial, or a blatant attempt to get airplay. Tons of songs do this, of course. But from a lyrical standpoint, I tend to dislike name-dropping in songs unless there’s an actual point to it, and I don’t find the Highway FM and Hank/Cash lines enough to make a real point. Other people have mentioned it before, but name-dropping country stars (or radio stations) does not make a song country. And I find it strange and somewhat sad in songs that don’t sound country.

    Of course, I don’t expect songs that are trying for mainstream airplay to sound country at this point, but the artists don’t have to name-drop traditional country singers when they are clearly barely country/not country at all. Rubbing salt in the wound!

    I also think the “bad girl” trope has been overplayed in recent female country due to Miranda’s success. I love Miranda and she does it fabulously, but that’s also because she has a unique viewpoint and a deeper point most of the time than just being edgy for its own sake (with the exception of Fastest Girl in Town). I don’t find the edgy aspect convincing in “My Church,” as there’s just no complexity or even hints at complexity, and no details or lines that add layers to it.

    All that said, I still enjoy the song. I love several different kinds of music, and I think this has a great vibe to it. I don’t think it’s strong songwriting lyrically (and far from a unique narrative voice) and it’s perhaps a too-blatant grab for airplay, but it’s fun as a feel-good song and shows some promise.

  8. Sorry to double-post, but I went and listened to the rest of her EP, and she doesn’t sound country at all. I’m a bit confused. Is she being marketed as a country artist? I’m quite far from a genre purist and definitely enjoy some pop country (when it’s done well), but there seems to be a trend of new young artists joining the “country” genre because it’s in some ways less competitive or easier to stand out than in regular pop. It’s disheartening to have to see more traditional country artists (Brandi Clark, Ashley Monroe, etc.) have to compete against pop songs on country radio.

    I can easily see her songs being sung by an artist like Meghan Trainor, both melodically and lyrically, as well as from a production standpoint. I know that music evolves, and I enjoy new country music, but this song is by far the most “country” on her EP and it’s…not country. To me, it seems like an interesting mix between folk (a la hand-clapping) and soul. It’s enjoyable music, but I fail to see how her music is even tangentially country besides the references in this one song.

  9. Solid B/B+. A little thin lyrically, but it sounds nice and is well-sung.

    Decent-not-Great Americana songs are a huge improvement on normal radio fare, though!

  10. Getting late in on this; but after a few listens, even with the plugs for Highway-FM and the like, I think this is an incredibly good record from Maren. I think the comparisons to Sheryl Crow are very valid ones, but at the same time I also find that it goes even further back in time, in terms of feeling and sound, to Linda Ronstadt’s versions of “Willing” and “Roll Um Easy” from her classic country-rock, which is pretty heady company to be with (IMHO).

  11. This song is amazing. The references to country legends, the admission that she isn’t anything special, just an imperfect person, her voice the lyrics and the instrumentation/production work very well together. the best of the old with the best of the new.


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