In July 2006, Eric Church created a stir in the country music scene with the release of his debut album, Sinners Like Me. A commercial and critical success, it was a remarkably polished album, especially in light of his inexperience. Six studio albums down the line, and Church has still to release a bad record… something that may infuriate his peers, but which no doubt keeps his millions of fans happy. Ranking albums of such consistently high quality is no easy task, especially when every fan has their own personal favorite. But we’ve gone ahead and done it anyway. Here’s how we rank all the Eric Church albums from worst to best.
7. Heart & Soul
Double albums are notoriously tricky. Triple albums, on the other hand, take tricky to a whole other dimension. Yet somehow, Church pulled it out of the bag for his 2021 album Heart & Soul. Divided over three separate albums (Heart, which dropped on April 16, 2021; &, which was issued as a limited release to members of his fan club; and Soul, which was released on April 23, 2021), the album was conceived and composed during a month long trip Church took into the mountains of North Carolina during the height of the pandemic. He’s since described it as a “special, special project that I think will be among our best.” Both Heart and Soul were hits, peaking at No. 3 and No. 2 in the Top Country Albums chart respectively. Even & managed to make an appearance, despite being limited to his fan club only.
6. Desperate Man
In October 2018, Church released his fifth studio album, Desperate Man. Of all his albums, this is perhaps his much hushed. Unlike The Outsiders, which seems to live by the mantra of the bigger, the better, here, restraint is the order of the day. Mature, poignant, and wonderfully modest, it’s a deeply satisfying album that showcases a different, but no less appealing, side to Church’s talents. The album debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, becoming Church’s fifth top ten hit on the chart, and at No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart.
After the roaring success of his debut album, Church didn’t disappoint with its follow-up, Carolina. Although it lacks some of the grit of Sinners Like Me, the extra spit and polish that’s been applied to the production suit Church’s voice, adding extra appeal to standout tracks like Smoke a Little Smoke and Longer Gone. If its pristine quality feels like a blatant stab at commercial success, it’s because it was. And it was a successful stab too. Released in March 2009, the album took Church to No. 17 on the Billboard 200 and No. 4 on the Top Country Albums chart. Its lead-off single, Love Your Love the Most, meanwhile, became his first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. In 2016, the album was certified platinum by the RIAA after exceeding sales of over 1 million.
4. The Outsiders
In February 2014, Church released his fourth studio album, The Outsiders. It came shortly after he irked certain publications by proclaiming “I think genres are dead.” Dead or not, he certainly flirts with a fair share here. Of all his albums, The Outsiders is perhaps his most musically adventurous, taking Church far outside his comfort zone in a way that’s sometimes messy, but always intriguing. Critically, the reception was universally positive. In their review, Rolling Stone declared that Church had “made a record that’s weirder, louder, and even more badass” which showcased his talents as a “crafty, ambitious songwriter with a sensitive, rueful side.” Spin, meanwhile, called it “a freakish statement of confidence and power from an artist in full command of his gifts.” The public loved it just as much, taking it to No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and the Top Country Albums chart.
3. Mr. Misunderstood
After the deliberately overblown The Outsiders, Church’s fifth studio album, Mr. Misunderstood, feels like a correction. A modest, restrained album devoid of excess and free of hype, it’s a wonderful piece of Americana bursting with classic tales of heartbreak and longing. Released on November 3, 2015, to widespread acclaim, it peaked at No. 2 on both the Billboard 200 and the Top Country Albums chart. It subsequently won the Album of the Year award at the CMA Awards, and a nomination for Album of the Year at the ACM Awards.
2. Sinners Like Me
If Church was hoping to make a big splash with his debut, he succeeded. Released in July 2006, Sinners Like Me immediately established him as one of country music’s brightest new stars, soaring to No. 7 on the Top Country Albums Chart. It also became a crossover success, peaking at No. 29 on the Billboard 200. Its singles, How ‘Bout You, Two Pink Lines, Guys Like Me, and the title cut, all made it into the Hot 100, peaking at No. 14, No. 19, No. 17, and No. 51 respectively. It’s since been certified platinum after shipping over 1 million units. Raw, lovely, and undeniably authentic, it remains one of his most popular albums to this day.
In July 2011, Church dropped his third studio album, Chief. If he was looking to prove the success of his first two albums was no fluke, he succeeded. Commercially, it was a runaway success, hitching a ride to the top of both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Top Country Albums Chart and spawning five hit singles, two of which (Springsteen and Drink in My Hand) made it to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Within just one year, it had certified triple platinum after selling over 3 million copies. Critically, it was the same story. As well as earning a nomination for Best Country Album at the 54th Grammy Awards, it also won Album of the Year at the CMA and ACM Awards. Almost a decade after its release, it made it on to Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.