Eric Church’s latest album, The Outsiders, took a lot of sonic risks. The album is a trip through country, rock, and metal that leaves more questions than it answers at times. Some of the risks paid off into fantastic songs, some of it sounds like a mess. One song that he did not take any risks on was “Talladega”. This song is not anything outlandish or different, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great song. Sometimes, less is more.
“Talladega” seems like it is going to be either a fast paced driving song, or a rowdy party anthem. “Talladega” is neither. The song is a retrospective look back at days of youth, remembering the good times, and using the race track as a metaphor for the memories. Eric refers to the good times rolling over and over in his memories as the cars rolling over and over along the track. So, in typical Eric Church fashion, what looks like a simple song actually has some complex thoughts behind it.
The melody is pretty standard modern country. In an album that features some crazy stuff, this is probably the tamest, most formulamatic song in the bunch. It fits right in at country radio, it doesn’t offend, and it is easy to sing along to. There isn’t really much to say about the sound. I think that was the point. Eric was given a lot of freedom to make some wild sounds on his album, and I think “Talladega” was purposely done more conservative in order to have a near-guaranteed hit for radio. Some of the experimental songs on The Outsiders just will not fit in on the airwaves, so “Talladega” is an obvious choice for the less adventurous world of the mainstream radio. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but it’s worth noting.
“Talladega” is a deceiving song that is much better than one would expect. Eric probably won’t win a ton of awards for it, but it is still an entertaining and well-written song. Nobody in mainstream country music does nostalgia quite like Eric, and this song fits right into that theme. Paired up with “Springsteen”, Eric has a dynamic one-two punch of memory anthems that can hang with the best of them. “Talladega” is one of the better songs on radio today, the improvement of country radio in 2014 continues!