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?