Upon its release, Chief received generally positive reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 77, based on 9 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".
AllMusic reviewer Thom Jurek gave it 5 stars out of 5, saying that it is "defiant, well-conceived, and more carefully executed than it sounds, with some excellent songs". In a review for Slant Magazine, critic Jonathan Keefe stated that "It just doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to champion traditional country music while singing over hard-rock arrangements and occasionally Auto-Tuned vocal tracks. That’s not to say he doesn’t do a lot of things, particularly with his songwriting and with some risky production choices, awfully well here. Chief doesn’t make him a country music Jesus, but it does back up a good deal of his braggadocio."
The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 and the Top Country Albums chart, selling 145,000 copies in its first week of release. In its second week, the album fell to number two on the Billboard 200 while still remaining at number one on the Top Country Albums chart. The album was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on June 20, 2012, and triple platinum on August 31, 2016 for combined sales and streams of over three million units in the United States. As of August 2017, the album has sold 1,957,700 copies in the United States.