ACL Live Shot: Eric Church

This is country music? To Iron Maiden maybe.

By Jim Caligiuri, 11:21AM, Mon. Oct. 7, 2013

Horns up for Eric Church!
Horns up for Eric Church!
photo by Gary Miller

There was a great article in Entertainment Weekly on the current state of country music. They called it an “identity crisis,” saying Nashville’s “embroiled in an outright civil war.”

Eric Church wasn’t mentioned in the piece, but the music he presented Sunday evening at ACL Fest highlights a big part of the problem of what passes for country these days.

He fits a heaviness worthy of Black Sabbath, along with Iron Maiden’s dual guitar zingers, into his songs about present-day America. One can be sure, however, that Waylon Jennings – name-checked in “Lotta Boot Left to Fill” – didn’t need double kick drums to get his point across.

Church’s appearance at the festival was an anomaly. No other artists from the current cast of Nashville stars were on the bill, although, for what it’s worth, he did play Lollapalooza. The audience was definitely his, singing along at all the right times, almost breathlessly waiting for his monster hit “Springsteen.” Overall, the reaction was tepid in comparison to the colossal noise Church’s band made.

A great deal has been made of his songwriting chops, and things quieted some for “A Country Boy Can Survive” and “These Boots,” offering a glimpse of Alan Jackson-style humility. Yet a banjo on almost every song didn’t make it country any more than it makes what Mumford & Sons does bluegrass.

The party atmosphere and songs like “Jack Daniels” point the way toward Church’s desire to be another Hank Jr. Instead, he came across as flimsy as Hank III.

For more ACL Fest coverage, see austinchronicle.com/acl. For photo galleries from the fest, see austinchronicle.com/photos.
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