Fusion Country’s Five Must-Listen Albums of 2018

It’s that time of year again! It’s not Christmas I’m taking about, although you’re surely getting inundated with a lot of Christmas stuff. No, I’m talking about in the music world: The Listpocalypse. This is where all of the music outlets drown you in their lists of favorite albums, songs, artists, etc of the year. Now if you’re anything like me, you get tired of reading these after about the 5th list. My biggest issue is that most of them are way too long. Anything over 15-20 albums is just ridiculous and quite frankly I’m skeptical if you’re actually listening to the music. People read these lists to catch up and catch anything they might have missed out on throughout the year. They don’t need bogged down with these long lists. Instead they should just be suggested the very best. A nice and short, compact list is much more effective. This gives you the reader a chance to get through quickly and start listening.

So that’s why I’ve decided I’m only giving you the five must-listen Fusion Country albums of 2018 to listen to if you haven’t done so yet. And there won’t be a best songs list, as you can find all of Fusion Country’s favorite songs in our 2018 playlist. But I’ll include at the bottom of this post too. Thanks for reading Fusion Country in 2018 and I wish you all a safe and happy holidays!

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Golden Hour is an excellent journey through the ups and downs of the spectrum of human emotions. Happiness, sadness, love, confusion, fun, loneliness, togetherness, cockiness, hope and more are all on display. To be human is to feel and this album makes you feel so many things. This a defining moment for Kacey Musgraves, as a songwriter and an artist. Not only showcasing her top-level songwriting, but fearlessly taking the kind of risks that so many artists are outright scared or incapable of taking with their music. Most music released today sounds timid and lacks creativity. This album is full of confidence and charges ahead without letting the unwritten rules of music hold it back. When you cast away life’s preconceptions, you’re truly free as Kacey Musgraves demonstrates with Golden Hour.

Eric Church – Desperate Man

Desperate Man is a fantastic album. Church’s songwriting has never been better and the production choices made by him and Jay Joyce blow me away. Just like Kacey Musgraves with Golden Hour, Eric Church shows us just how innovative and exciting country music can be when you throw out the “rules” and just create your sound. It’s not about giving people what they want, but giving them what they didn’t know they needed until they heard it. Eric Church did it his way on Desperate Man and his way is excellent.

Caitlyn Smith – Starfire

Caitlyn Smith’s Starfire is fantastic in every way. The songwriting is sharp, smart and relatable to the everyday listener. The production is smooth, flawless and really helps bring the words of the songs to life. Smith without a doubt has one of the best voices you’ll hear in music today. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t listened to this album. It’s one of the best you’ll hear in all of 2018.

The Wild Feathers – Greetings From the Neon Frontier

The Wild Feathers impress me with their brand of country rock on Greetings From The Neon Frontier. This band has a tight, cohesive sound that borrows from the late 70s era of country rock while also sounding fresh and modern-day. What this band absolutely excels at is their ability to paint a picture in your head with their music. Their lyrics are descriptive, engaging and cleverly composed while the instrumentation compliments the words well and add to the scene of the song. Their other strength is their soaring harmonies, which they shouldn’t be afraid to let shine more. Greetings From The Neon Frontier is a memorably fun album of country-flavored rock and roll that can be enjoyed both quietly and at full volume.

Kenny Chesney – Songs For The Saints

Songs For The Saints will go down as one of Kenny Chesney’s best albums at the end of his career. On this album he casts away the lazy tropes and paper-thin depth that has plagued his career at times and delivers an album full of songs about love, happiness and finding peace after destruction. This album’s biggest strength is its songwriting, as it’s rooted in a place of reality of real people and places, highlighting the ups and downs of life. The production of this album is pretty good too, as it’s varied and does a wonderful job of weaving reggae, island and pop influences throughout. Kenny Chesney should be quite proud of this album, as he delivers a real gem in Songs For The Saints.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0jwh1uI46CPgGwWpCdpj03

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Nov. 10)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from three Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales and Streaming. I take the numbers from these charts, plug them into my formulas and methodology and it spits out a number I refer to as a Popularity Rating or Pop Rating for short. This determines the order of the top 20 rankings you’ll see below.

What I love about my chart is it’s simple, but fluid and dynamic. It accounts for all types of artists across the board. It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as all three categories are ultimately controlled by you the listeners. Not to mention I feel it’s more inclusive of a variety of styles of country music and women artists. It’s a true real-time indicator of who is popular in country music with built-in natural weights that ensures fairness.

One last thing: I will of course be adding my own personal opinion to the chart with a rating of +1, 0 or -1 based on whether I think the artist’s contributions towards their pop rating are helping, hurting or not having an effect on the genre. Onto the chart!


  1. Luke Combs (#1 Streaming) +1
  2. Dan + Shay (#1 Digital Songs) +1
  3. Kane Brown -1
  4. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  5. Florida Georgia Line -1
  6. Jason Aldean +1
  7. Thomas Rhett 0
  8. Bebe Rexha -1
  9. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  10. Brett Young -1
  11. Sam Hunt 0
  12. Jimmie Allen +1
  13. Eric Church +1
  14. Josh Turner 0
  15. Jake Owen -1
  16. Carrie Underwood 0
  17. Lauren Alaina 0
  18. Jon Pardi +1
  19. Cody Johnson +1
  20. Blake Shelton 0

The Ultimate Pulse: +2


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Josh Turner, Jon Pardi, Cody Johnson & Blake Shelton
  • Departures: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Cole Swindell, Old Dominion and Maddie & Tae
  • The Ultimate Pulse drops one spot to +2 this week. As expected Jason Isbell and Maddie & Tae drop out. Meanwhile Cole Swindell and Old Dominion both see a big drop in sales to fall off the chart.
  • Luke Combs is the new #1 this week, his third reign at the top of The Ultimate Pulse. His consistent sales and ever impressive streaming numbers continue to make him the one to beat on the chart.
  • Dan + Shay surprisingly rise to #2 for a new all-time for the duo. Just like Combs they continue to steadily put up great numbers in sales and streaming.
  • Kane Brown falls to #3 coming off a big sales bump from a new single. As always he’ll rebound and is due for a huge week when his album drops.
  • Chris Stapleton finally takes the #4 spot away from Florida Georgia Line, making nice gains in both sales and streaming. If he keeps these kind of gains up he can challenge easily for the top three.
  • Jason Aldean rises back up to #6, as “Girl Like You” is getting good sales to allow for the rebound. Aldean and the rest of the chart are still a long way behind the top five though.
  • Brett Young re-enters the top ten due to finally stabilizing his pop rating from free-falling and artists in front of him falling off in their own pop rating. His new single is still not selling well though.
  • Sam Hunt jumps up to #11, despite releasing two new singles in three years, because the chart is so damn weak. I know I’m beating a dead horse pointing out the weakness of the chart at this point, but it’s worth reminding just how pathetic the genre’s artists are right now outside of the top five. The top five are shining, while the rest are throwing shit against the wall that temporarily sticks.
  • Josh Turner makes his debut on The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music at #14. His new gospel album sold quite well and it’s a good career move for an artist that is no longer mainstream viable. Unfortunately for me I don’t care about gospel music and I can’t be bothered to listen to this album, as I have better music to spend time on.
  • Cody Johnson makes his return to The Ultimate Pulse after being apart of one of the inaugural charts. He released several songs from his new upcoming album due in January and “Dear Rodeo” was the best seller by far. It’s a solid song about Johnson’s time and reflection on his days in the rodeo. It’s worth checking out.
  • Finally Blake Shelton makes hid debut on The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music at #20. He beat out both Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osborne in a tiebreaker to take the final spot. The combination of sales from his greatest hits album and his current single “Turnin’ Me On” allowed him to make his debut (and of course the weakness of the chart). The single is just okay, as it really doesn’t earn much of a reaction out of me.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Dierks Bentley
  2. Brothers Osborne
  3. Zac Brown Band
  4. Cole Swindell
  5. Maren Morris

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below and feel free to make predictions for next week’s rankings. Feel free to ask questions if you need any clarification on the methodology and rankings.

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Nov. 3)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from three Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales and Streaming. I take the numbers from these charts, plug them into my formulas and methodology and it spits out a number I refer to as a Popularity Rating or Pop Rating for short. This determines the order of the top 20 rankings you’ll see below.

What I love about my chart is it’s simple, but fluid and dynamic. It accounts for all types of artists across the board. It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as all three categories are ultimately controlled by you the listeners. Not to mention I feel it’s more inclusive of a variety of styles of country music and women artists. It’s a true real-time indicator of who is popular in country music with built-in natural weights that ensures fairness.

One last thing: I will of course be adding my own personal opinion to the chart with a rating of +1, 0 or -1 based on whether I think the artist’s contributions towards their pop rating are helping, hurting or not having an effect on the genre. Onto the chart!


  1. Kane Brown (#1 Digital Songs) -1
  2. Luke Combs (#1 Streaming) +1
  3. Dan + Shay +1
  4. Florida Georgia Line -1
  5. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  6. Thomas Rhett 0
  7. Jason Aldean +1
  8. Bebe Rexha -1
  9. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  10. Eric Church +1
  11. Brett Young -1
  12. Jimmie Allen +1
  13. Cole Swindell 0
  14. Sam Hunt 0
  15. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit +1
  16. Jake Owen -1
  17. Carrie Underwood 0
  18. Old Dominion +1
  19. Maddie & Tae +1
  20. Lauren Alaina 0

The Ultimate Pulse: +3


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit; Maddie & Tae
  • Departures: Morgan Evans & Jon Pardi
  • The Ultimate Pulse improves two spots to +3 this week. Morgan Evans dropped like an absolute rock out of the chart. It was expected, but not this drastically. It was a huge one week blip for him and then right back into irrelevancy. Jon Pardi continues to lack traction with his current single.
  • Kane Brown is the new #1 this week, his third appearance at the top spot. This was expected, as another new single from his upcoming album sold well and also got streaming help too. There’s a good chance he sets a pop rating record when his album drops.
  • Brown has a small lead over Luke Combs, who narrowly kept the top streamer spot. These two will continue to fiercely battle over the #1 spot and as I’ve said before, streaming will likely determine who’s at the top next week.
  • Last week I said Chris Stapleton should take the #4 spot this week. But once again Florida Georgia Line barely holds him off to keep the spot. I’ll be really shocked if Stapleton doesn’t take it next week, as “Millionaire” is selling quite well and Florida Georgia Line’s new single has yet to take off.
  • Jason Aldean’s new single “Girl Like You” is starting to really take off in sales, so his spot near the top will be solidified. If he can get it to stream well too he’ll challenge for the top five again.
  • As expected Mitchell Tenpenny has a small bounce back and re-enters the top ten.
  • Eric Church, Brett Young and Cole Swindell essentially stayed the same in pop rating, so their gains in chart position were more because of artists falling off in front of them and nothing to do with making gains.
  • Jimmie Allen falls out of the top ten to #12, as expected coming off the album bump. “Best Shot” continues to sell and stream well though, so he’ll continue to remain in his current vicinity on the chart and challenge for the top ten.
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit make their debut on The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music at #15 this week. It’s a pleasant surprise from a group that doesn’t really consider themselves to be country. Nevertheless I’ll gladly accept quality artists any time on this chart, especially when they release a good live album like this group did to land on the chart.
  • “Down to the Honkytonk” is looking like a career hit for Jake Owen, as it’s selling really well. So expect him to stick around on the chart for a while.
  • Sales have fallen off for “Make It Sweet” and it has yet to make an impact streaming-wise, so Old Dominion will linger near the bottom of the chart in the coming weeks. It’s interesting to see how this group’s singles similarly perform to each other. Based on my observations, all of their singles get a strong start and then fall off to about the #15-20 range on iTunes.
  • Maddie & Tae make their debut on The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music at #19 this week. Their new single “Die From a Broken Heart” surprisingly sold really well in its opening week. It’s a great surprise to see for a great song to boot. It’s much better than the first single they released. Hopefully this song will find long-term traction.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Jon Pardi
  2. Zac Brown Band
  3. Dierks Bentley
  4. Brothers Osborne
  5. Taylor Swift

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below and feel free to make predictions for next week’s rankings. Feel free to ask questions if you need any clarification on the methodology and rankings.

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Oct. 27)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from three Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales and Streaming. I take the numbers from these charts, plug them into my formulas and methodology and it spits out a number I refer to as a Popularity Rating or Pop Rating for short. This determines the order of the top 20 rankings you’ll see below.

What I love about my chart is it’s simple, but fluid and dynamic. It accounts for all types of artists across the board. It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as all three categories are ultimately controlled by you the listeners. Not to mention I feel it’s more inclusive of a variety of styles of country music and women artists. It’s a true real-time indicator of who is popular in country music with built-in natural weights that ensures fairness.

One last thing: I will of course be adding my own personal opinion to the chart with a rating of +1, 0 or -1 based on whether I think the artist’s contributions towards their pop rating are helping, hurting or not having an effect on the genre. Onto the chart!


  1. Luke Combs (#1 Streaming) +1
  2. Kane Brown -1
  3. Dan + Shay (#1 Digital Songs) +1
  4. Florida Georgia Line -1
  5. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  6. Thomas Rhett 0
  7. Jason Aldean +1
  8. Jimmie Allen +1
  9. Morgan Evans -1
  10. Bebe Rexha -1
  11. Eric Church +1
  12. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  13. Old Dominion +1
  14. Brett Young -1
  15. Cole Swindell 0
  16. Carrie Underwood 0
  17. Sam Hunt 0
  18. Lauren Alaina 0
  19. Jake Owen -1
  20. Jon Pardi +1

The Ultimate Pulse: +1


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Morgan Evans & Cole Swindell
  • Departures: Tim McGraw & Zac Brown Band
  • The Ultimate Pulse drops four spots to +1 this week. There was some movement this week, but much less compared to the last two weeks. Unfortunately Tim McGraw’s sales of “Neon Church” didn’t sustain, so he drops out. The shuffling of the album sales chart knocks out Zac Brown Band.
  • Luke Combs remains at #1 for a second straight week. He extended his lead this week thanks to a small boost in streaming, which also allowed him to take the #1 Streaming spot away from Kane Brown. I expect “Beautiful Crazy” will be his next single, so expect Combs’ dominant numbers to continue.
  • Kane Brown just barely hangs onto the #2 spot this week over Dan + Shay. A small loss in sales and streaming nearly dropped him to #3. Dan + Shay’s consistency nearly got them to their highest spot yet. Expect Brown though to possibly temporarily regain the top spot, as he just released another song and as usual it’s selling well.
  • After the top three it’s a drop down to #4, where this week Florida Georgia Line and Chris Stapleton tied. Florida Georgia Line though gets the spot based on tiebreaker rules. The duo continues to steadily drop in pop rating, so they need their new single “Talk You Out of It” to take off in sales and streaming if they want to regain their top status.
  • On the flip side, Chris Stapleton just continues to gain thanks to the increasing sales of “Millionaire.” Even better is it shows no signs of slowing in sales. Don’t be surprised if Stapleton takes the #4 spot outright next week.
  • After these two it’s a big drop down to the rest of the field. I point this out because after the top five it’s a mess. The chart is weaker and weaker as you go down it, which shows just how much the top five is dominating the genre and how everyone else is playing catch-up.
  • Thomas Rhett and Jason Aldean have their spots thanks to the absolute strength of past singles. The good news for both is their new singles are starting to slowly sell, as Aldean’s “Girl Like You” finally makes a dent in the chart and “Sixteen” for Rhett is climbing iTunes.
  • We then get to the most interesting spot on The Ultimate Pulse this week, as there was a three-way tie for #8 between Jimmie Allen, Morgan Evans and Bebe Rexha. Based on tiebreaker rules…
  • Jimmie Allen gets the #8 spot thanks to having strength in all three categories, as his debut album sold well. He made a whopping 11 spot jump! Meanwhile “Best Shot” just continues to sell and rise in streaming, with no signs of slowing down. Allen has a true hit on his hands and it’s setting him up to become a new star in the genre.
  • Morgan Evans gets the #9 spot, as he beats Rexha in two of the three categories. His debut album also sold well. Evans made an even bigger jump, going from no points and unranked to the top ten for the first time ever. He also got help from the great sales of “Thing That We Drink To.” Unfortunately I’m not a fan of the single or the album. I don’t expect these numbers to keep up and he’ll probably be off the chart again in a couple of weeks.
  • Eric Church stabilizes well coming off his album bump, only dropping a spot. Just like Carrie Underwood, expect him to have a solidly safe spot on the chart thanks to great album sales.
  • Mitchell Tenpenny falls out of the top ten to #12, as his sales and streaming took a slight loss. As I said before he’s peaked for now, as he’ll probably get a slight boost back up and not much more.
  • Old Dominion jumps up two spots to #13 this week, as their new single continues to sell well. It’s starting slightly fall off though now and will cause them to drop in the coming weeks. They need streaming help for sure.
  • Brett Young’s fall continues, as “Here Tonight” is just not selling and streaming well. His only hope is that rising airplay will help boost sales and streams.
  • Cole Swindell makes his return to The Ultimate Pulse at #15 after a one week hiatus. His sales bounced back and will need them to stay back to keep his spot.
  • Lauren Alaina falls seven spots to #18. The sales for “Ladies of the ’90s” have cratered, dropping her on the The Ultimate Pulse as a result. She’ll need airplay and/or streaming to help her bounce back.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Zac Brown Band
  2. Blake Shelton
  3. Dierks Bentley
  4. Brothers Osborne
  5. Russell Dickerson

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below and feel free to make predictions for next week’s rankings. Feel free to ask questions if you need any clarification on the methodology and rankings.

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Oct. 20)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from three Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales and Streaming. I take the numbers from these charts, plug them into my formulas and methodology and it spits out a number I refer to as a Popularity Rating or Pop Rating for short. This determines the order of the top 20 rankings you’ll see below.

What I love about my chart is it’s simple, but fluid and dynamic. It accounts for all types of artists across the board. It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as all three categories are ultimately controlled by you the listeners. Not to mention I feel it’s more inclusive of a variety of styles of country music and women artists. It’s a true real-time indicator of who is popular in country music with built-in natural weights that ensures fairness.

One last thing: I will of course be adding my own personal opinion to the chart with a rating of +1, 0 or -1 based on whether I think the artist’s contributions towards their pop rating are helping, hurting or not having an effect on the genre. Onto the chart!


  1. Luke Combs +1
  2. Kane Brown (#1 Streaming) -1
  3. Dan + Shay (#1 Digital Songs) +1
  4. Florida Georgia Line -1
  5. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  6. Thomas Rhett 0
  7. Jason Aldean +1
  8. Bebe Rexha -1
  9. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  10. Eric Church +1
  11. Lauren Alaina +1
  12. Brett Young -1
  13. Carrie Underwood 0
  14. Tim McGraw +1
  15. Old Dominion +1
  16. Sam Hunt 0
  17. Jon Pardi +1
  18. Jimmie Allen +1
  19. Zac Brown Band +1
  20. Jake Owen -1

The Ultimate Pulse: +5


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Eric Church, Tim McGraw, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi & Jake Owen
  • Gone: Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Cole Swindell, Travis Tritt & Loretta Lynn
  • The Ultimate Pulse improves two spots to +5 this week, another new all-time high. There was a ton of movement again this week, with yet another five artist swing in arrivals and dismissals. Bentley once again drops in album sales, which is tradition at this point. Rascal Flatts couldn’t maintain their impressive sales and probably won’t recoup them. Swindell has almost consistently lost traction since his album release and will need his next single to be a hit to rebound. Tritt and Loretta were both expected to only last a week.
  • Luke Combs is the new #1 this week, his second reign at the top of the chart. He just edges out Kane Brown by about the same margin Brown edged out Combs in last week’s chart. It’s impressive how Combs consistently maintains his numbers, as they never waver and stay in the same vicinity every week, whereas Brown’s numbers ebb and flow in sales. Brown’s streaming numbers are more consistent than anybody though.
  • At this point Dan + Shay have essentially replaced Florida Georgia Line in The Big Three at the top. They’ve got a large lead on Florida Georgia Line now and have also taken over the #1 Digital Song sales spot. They’re also nipping at the heels of Combs and Brown. If they can just increase their streaming number a little bit, they have a great shot at the #1 spot.
  • As Florida Georgia Line has dropped, Chris Stapleton makes a solid gain this week and almost had enough to pass the duo for the #4 spot. This is thanks to his current single “Millionaire” starting to make a dent in sales. If it can continue to rise in sales with it, he just may move to #4 in the coming weeks.
  • Mitchell Tenpenny continues to steadily gain every week in sales and streaming with his single “Drunk Me,” rising to #9 this week. He’s also just announced his debut album release and opened pre-orders, so this will help his gains even more. While I hate the song, you can’t deny it’s a true hit.
  • As expected Eric Church re-enters the chart this week and in a big way, breaking into the top ten. In a crowded album release schedule, Church did great sales with his excellent album Desperate Man. For the first time he also gets streaming help, as the title track debuted on the Country Streaming Songs chart. Equally surprising, the song fell off the sales chart, which makes no sense considering I haven’t seen it fall from its current position on iTunes.
  • Nevertheless, Church should be able to hang around this spot on the chart due to his albums always selling through well and the chart being pretty weak right now.
  • Lauren Alaina rises to #11 thanks to the sales of her new single. I’ll be curious to see if she makes a streaming impact.
  • Brett Young continues to hemorrhage sales and streaming, falling out of the top ten. It’s clear at this point that there isn’t a lot of enthusiasm and excitement around his new single. But I’m sure this won’t stop the industry and media from gas lighting everyone into thinking it’s a hit when it tops the radio chart.
  • Tim McGraw makes his debut on The Ultimate Pulse at #14, thanks to the sales of his new songs. I imagine he should be able to maintain sales for “Neon Church,” allowing him to stay on the chart.
  • Old Dominion makes their return to The Ultimate Pulse, thanks to the sales of their new single “Make It Sweet.” It’s selling well and seems to be resonating with listeners, so they should be able to stick around on the chart. I wouldn’t be surprised if they garnered some streaming traction too.
  • Jake Owen makes his debut on The Ultimate Pulse at the final spot on the chart, thanks to the sales of his single “Down to the Honkytonk.” This looks like it will be a hit for him. It’s been a while since Owen has had a true hit and not a radio hit. Unfortunately I do not like this song at all. It’s some of the cheapest, laziest songwriting I’ve heard this year. It panders so hard toward traditionalists. The song relies on tired references to get you hooked, not to mention the hook itself is repeated too much.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Cole Swindell
  2. Blake Shelton
  3. Dierks Bentley
  4. Taylor Swift
  5. Brothers Osborne

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below and feel free to make predictions for next week’s rankings. Feel free to ask questions if you need any clarification on the methodology and rankings.

Album Review – Eric Church’s ‘Desperate Man’

Eric Church has always did it his way. It’s a cliché thing to say in the music industry. So many artists love to say it in press releases and interviews. But very few are being genuine. It’s just another marketing phrase. When it comes to Church, he’s one of the few being sincere. Not only has he done it his way, but his sound has evolved and changed with his life along the way. Each album shows more growth in his music and artistry. On Mr. Misunderstood, I thought Church delivered his best album yet. I didn’t think he could top himself on Desperate Man, but he does. Church delivers more on Desperate Man than I could have imagined.

Church delivers a real statement with opening song “The Snake.” It’s a stripped-down, appropriately sinister sounding song about a Copperhead and a rattlesnake. I’m not sure how others interpret it, but for me it’s a scathing commentary on American politics regarding the two major political parties. It tells of how each work together to continue eating the mice (who represent the people) and keep their power, each out for themselves and not the people they represent. “And the whole world’s burning down,” as Church wisely sings.

Church then does a complete 180 with the fun and upbeat “Hangin’ Around.” It’s probably the most danceable song Church has ever released, as it’s impossible to not want to move your head and feet along with the beat. The bass, drums, clapping and electric guitars chug along in unison, creating an infectiously funky sound. “Heart Like A Wheel” is a slice of bluesy country goodness that puts the guitars front and center. It’s about a love that can’t be stopped and keeps rolling on. Church delivers the lyrics with a real passion that make them really resonate over the listener.

“Some Of It” is the perfect marriage of Church’s past and present styles. The lyrics of the song are classic Church, with his deftly simple message about finding wisdom in life. It pairs up well with the new rich, heavily textured sound of Church. To me it’s a no-brainer, future single. The next song “Monsters” sounds like a single too. For many I imagine this is the center-piece of the album and I don’t blame them. The song’s writers Church and Jeff Hyde cleverly weave together a story of the monsters in life. When you’re a kid, they’re under the bed and you kill them with a flashlight. When you’re an adult, you realize they’re all around you and even in your head. In the case of Church, you pray them away. Whether you’re young or old, we all have our demons and we all have our way of dealing with them. You know you’re hearing a special song when we can all relate to it, as it unites us through its message.

Church fondly looks back on his upbringing and life on “Hippie Radio.” Specifically it was the sounds of rock radio that were always there through many milestones, marking each moment in his mind. It’s a song that celebrates the meaning of music and the influence it has on us. It’s a great song that’s probably the least memorable on the album, but that’s a testament to the sheer amount of quality throughout this record. “Higher Wire” shows a completely different side to Church. It’s a bare, soulful tune that Church sings almost entirely in falsetto. Like many I didn’t know what to think of it at first. It reminds me a lot of when I first heard “Like a Wrecking Ball,” which I originally didn’t like. But just like that song, “Higher Wire” grows stronger on you with each listen. My main takeaway: It’s so much damn fun to sing along to the chorus!

I covered the album’s title track when it first released and I still stand by what I said. It’s a great song and it’s appropriate it’s the title track because it perfectly captures the spirit and sound you hear throughout the album. “Solid” immediately gives you a ’70s vibe thanks to the undeniable presence of the electric guitars. Not a surprise, considering Church has cited many influences from the era. Church sings about the many things in his life that keeps him grounded and allows him to have a solid foundation in life. By the end he takes it back to where he grew up and the upbringing by his parents, the appealing emotional closer that ties it all together.

The shimmery feeling “Jukebox And A Bar” sees Church once again fuse his classic lyrical style with his new production style. The theme is a staple of country music, but it’s Church’s lyrical approach that makes this song so good. I particularly enjoy the line, “We got pinpoint GPS, all you need is an address/But her love is the one thing I can’t find.” I enjoy it because despite all of the technology we have and all of the problems it can solve, ironically it still can’t heal a broken heart like the camaraderie of a bar. Plus the use of words like “phosphorescent” and “incandescent” have never been used better in a country song.

The album closes out with “Drowning Man,” taking the album back to where it began with the headache of politics. Church is the voice of many, as he doesn’t want to think about the problems of the world and would rather drown in whiskey. He doesn’t want to hear about your “beach” or “mountains” either, which can be interpreted as the endless chatter from each side on social media. The drowning is a sea of words. “Save your breath, I don’t want to hear about it” are the final words from Church, as he carefully expresses the exasperation of many.

Desperate Man is a fantastic album. Church’s songwriting has never been better and the production choices made by him and Jay Joyce blow me away. Just like Kacey Musgraves with Golden Hour, Eric Church shows us just how innovative and exciting country music can be when you throw out the “rules” and just create your sound. It’s not about giving people what they want, but giving them what they didn’t know they needed until they heard it. Eric Church did it his way on Desperate Man and his way is excellent.

Grade: 10/10

Album’s Top Highlights: Monsters, The Snake, Hangin’ Around, Heart Like A Wheel, The whole damn thing, listen to it all


Producers: Jay Joyce & Arturo Buenahora Jr. 

Songwriters: Eric Church, Travis Meadows, Jeremy Spillman, Jeff Hyde, Clint Daniels, Bobby Pinson, Scooter Carusoe, Casey Beathard, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Anders Osborne

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Oct. 13)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from three Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales and Streaming. I take the numbers from these charts, plug them into my formulas and methodology and it spits out a number I refer to as a Popularity Rating or Pop Rating for short. This determines the order of the top 20 rankings you’ll see below.

What I love about my chart is it’s simple, but fluid and dynamic. It accounts for all types of artists across the board. It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as all three categories are ultimately controlled by you the listeners. Not to mention I feel it’s more inclusive of a variety of styles of country music and women artists. It’s a true real-time indicator of who is popular in country music with built-in natural weights that ensures fairness.

One last thing: I will of course be adding my own personal opinion to the chart with a rating of +1, 0 or -1 based on whether I think the artist’s contributions towards their pop rating are helping, hurting or not having an effect on the genre. Onto the chart!


  1. Kane Brown (#1 Digital Songs & #1 Streaming) -1
  2. Luke Combs +1
  3. Dan + Shay +1
  4. Florida Georgia Line -1
  5. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  6. Jason Aldean +1
  7. Thomas Rhett 0
  8. Bebe Rexha -1
  9. Brett Young -1
  10. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  11. Carrie Underwood 0
  12. Dierks Bentley 0
  13. Rascal Flatts 0
  14. Sam Hunt 0
  15. Cole Swindell 0
  16. Travis Tritt +1
  17. Loretta Lynn +1
  18. Lauren Alaina 0
  19. Jimmie Allen +1
  20. Zac Brown Band +1

The Ultimate Pulse: +3


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Travis Tritt, Loretta Lynn & Jimmie Allen
  • Gone: Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert & Jon Pardi
  • The Ultimate Pulse improves one spot to +3 this week, a new all-time high. There was a ton of movement this week, with a whopping five artist swing in arrivals and dismissals.
  • The most shocking artist to be gone is Luke Bryan, someone you expect to not fall off this chart. But “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” wasn’t a big hit. As a result sales and streams have tanked pretty hard. Kenny Chesney’s numbers have tanked too, as his new single is struggling to gain traction so far. Eric Church’s fall off is temporary of course, as his new album just dropped and he’ll be back on The Ultimate Pulse chart next week. Expect my review of that album soon.
  • Kane Brown remains at #1 for a second-straight week. The sales of another new single from his upcoming album helps him just maintain a slight edge over Luke Combs at #2. Next week it’ll be neck and neck between the two for the top spot. Streaming will probably determine who gets it.
  • Dan + Shay are so close to the top two, yet their numbers appear maxed for now. So they’ll just stay out of reach.
  • Jason Aldean has continued to lose in digital sales and streaming, but maintains his spot thanks to strong album sales and the great streaming numbers of “You Make It Easy.” Like Bryan and Chesney, Aldean is also struggling to get traction with his new single in streaming and sales.
  • Thomas Rhett is essentially in the same boat as the aforementioned artists.
  • My Eldredge theory for Brett Young continues to feel spot-on. Expect Mitchell Tenpenny to overtake him soon if Young keeps free-falling.
  • As you can see there’s not much excitement in the top 11 of the chart. But then the chaos starts at #12 with Dierks Bentley. Once again he bounces back up in the top 20 because his album sales boomeranged back up in sales. It makes no sense!
  • Rascal Flatts makes their debut on The Ultimate Pulse thanks to great sales of their new single. This surprised me a lot. Who knew they could still get this much traction in 2018? Unsurprisingly, the song bores me. It feels like a watered-down combination of “You Make It Easy” and a recent Dan + Shay single.
  • Veteran Travis Tritt makes his debut on The Ultimate Pulse thanks to the strong sales of “Help Me Hold On.” The sales spiked thanks to it being performed on The Voice. So I guess that show is good for something. Despite my issues with Tritt’s attitude, this song and his music in general is still great.
  • The legendary Loretta Lynn makes her debut on The Ultimate Pulse thanks to the sales of her new album. It’s pretty cool to see both Dolly Parton and Lynn making appearances on the chart within weeks of each other. I’m glad my proclamation that this chart is inclusive of older artists is remaining true.
  • Lauren Alaina has hung around in the top 20 for weeks thanks to being featured on “What Ifs” and next week it will pay off big, as she should get a boost on the chart from sales of her new single “Ladies In The ’90s.”
  • The last debut on The Ultimate Pulse this week is Jimmie Allen. Now remember when I said if airplay is effective it will show in sales and/or streaming in a significant way? His debut single “Best Shot” is demonstrating just that, as his airplay has gained so has both his sales and streaming. He’s getting numbers from both categories. And it’s a good song to boot! The only reason I haven’t reviewed it yet is because his debut album is dropping soon and I want to hear it to possibly review it, which I could then cover the song in it.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Eric Church
  2. Jon Pardi
  3. Kenny Chesney
  4. Jake Owen
  5. Old Dominion

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below and feel free to make predictions for next week’s rankings. Feel free to ask questions if you need any clarification on the methodology and rankings.