Eric Church’s ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd Jones’ Is a Boy’s Story With a Superfan Twist [Listen]
Eric Church's "Lynyrd Skynyrd Jones" turns country music's story-song tradition on its head. The country star dropped the new, Casey Beathard-penned track on Friday (Feb. 5).
Much like Johnny Cash's boy named Sue, Church's protagonist is a young man from Gadsden, Ala., with a unique name ("spelled with all four Ys," the lyrics quickly point out): a nod to his mother's favorite band -- and, perhaps his father's. "His mama met his daddy at a Tallahassee show / But just like Tuesday, Daddy wound up gone on down the road," Church sings over an acoustic guitar, laying out more of Mr. Jones' origin story.
Church fans will likely draw comparisons between "Lynyrd Skynyrd Jones" and his early-career cut "Lightning," both sonically and for their story-driven lyrics. Skynyrd fans, meanwhile, will find plenty of nods -- some subtle, some quite direct -- nods to the band's song catalog.
Throughout "Lynyrd Skynyrd Jones," Lynyrd -- a biracial boy who finds his talent for music at the age of 13 -- wonders about his father's identity; his mother, however, won't reveal the man's identity. Listeners learn the truth at the very end, though avid Skynyrd fans may pick up on some clues before then.
"Lynyrd Skynyrd Jones" closes the Soul disc of Church's forthcoming triple album, Heart & Soul. The 24-song project came out of the star's marathon recording session in early 2020, which found Church, producer Jay Joyce and a crew of songwriters and musicians writing and recording one song each day in a former restaurant they turned into a recording studio for the occasion.
"If you listen to the songs and you hear what the songs are, you very easily go, 'This sounds like they were in the middle of quarantine.' But we weren't. I was not," Church shared backstage at the 2020 CMA Awards, during which he was crowned Entertainer of the Year. "For me, it just kinda happened the way it was supposed to happen."
Church's focus was so on the music-making format, however, that that the idea for a triple album idea came later. Early on, instead, he simply aimed to make sure that every song was the best it could possibly be.
"The interesting thing about this process is that Jay kept asking me the last three or four days, 'Are we done?'" Church reveals. "I kept saying, 'God, this is going to be really hard. There's a lot here. Is this a double album? And if it's a double album, how do we leave out these five or six songs?' ...
"I am the hardest critic on making sure every song deserves to be on the record, and I beat this thing to death going, 'This can't be that good,'" he adds. "But it was just a special, special time, and a special, special project that I think will be among our best."
Each of Heart & Soul's three discs is set for release on a different day: Heart is due out on April 16, & will arrive on April 20, and Soul will conclude the project on April 23. The middle disc will only be available to members of Church's fan club, the Church Choir.
Heart & Soul is Church's first new music since 2018's Desperate Man.
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