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Road warrior Eric Church proves why

The Paradise, Boston, December 8, 2007

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Unlike many of his country contemporaries, Eric Church is a road warrior. He released his debut, "Sinners Like Us" in June 2006 and seems to have been on the road ever since.

In the county field, singers - especially newbies - don't hang on the road for very long unless they have a hit or two on the radio. With three songs reaching the top 20, though no huge blockbuster hits, Church hit the road hard.

And based on his outing headlining and drawing a very solid crowd, Church has doubtlessly benefited from doing so many concerts whether opening (he had about 20 dates opening for Bob Seger earlier this year) to being the main attraction.

"Sinners Like Me" was a solid, country disc with the lyrics digging a lot deeper than much country fare does these days. The North Carolinian's songs - he helped write all 12 on the disc - concern themselves with blue collar types ("Guys Like Me"), the anxiety of a potential pregnancy ("Two Pink Lines"), even murderers on death row about to meet their maker (the very poignant and different "Lightning").

In concert, the country sounds took awhile to develop as Church and band fell pretty to rocking though "Before She Does" and "Can't Take It With You," before veering towards a country vibe on "These Boots." That was a good thing because the depth of the songs previously was lost in the rumble of guitars.

Church sings with a lot of twang in his voice, furthering the country connection. While he played acoustic guitar the whole night, mandolin and banjo crept into various songs (banjo spearheaded "How "How 'Bout You"), increasing the country quotient.

Church goes so far as to "Pledge Allegiance to the Hag," a solid song. The only problem was that in introducing the song, Church asked the throng if they were Hag fans and hardly anyone plead guilty. A few more did on a second asking of the same question, leading one to surmise that this was not exactly a hard core country crowd interested in paying homage to one of the genre's greats even if Church was in lines like "They say country's fading/but we're still waving that flag around here." Great that he feels that way, but why offer a new introduction of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls?"

They were probably more interested in hearing the rocking song "The Hard Way."

Church also introduced a few new songs - he goes into the studio this week to record his second release - "Julia" and "Along the Way," a solid song and fitting way to end the evening with Church playing solo on acoustic guitar.

Church has a likable personality with enough pizzazz and is able to bond through his music. Of course, it sure helps to have an energized crowd as they often clapped or sang along often to beer references

But it's starting to get annoying when every touring act coming to the Boston area nowadays feels compelled to make comment about the Patriots or the Red Sox to gain an easy applause from the crowd (though Church at least deserves credit for knowing that the Pats were playing the New York Jets next week).

Along the same lines, Church inserted "Boston" into the lyrics at least three times, again to attract a surefire round of applause from the fans.

Church needn't go for such an easy route because his music is strong enough to win over the crowd, and on this night, this road warrior had very little problem in doing so. If only they knew who the Hag even was.