Eric Church at Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY

New York City (pop. eight million plus) doesn’t have a single country radio station. There are no real country venues in Manhattan, either, but Eric Church sold out the Bowery Ballroom two weeks before his CD release party. Church, an amiable outlaw, had pre-released the album to fans the day before, and by showtime the rowdy crowd knew every word.

It was a big day for Church, whose single went to Number One that day. In an interesting twist on release parties, Church sat center stage in a row of chairs, flanked by four other songsmiths who contributed to his album. Acoustic guitars in hand, starting from stage right, each man spoke about working with Church and writing his song, then sang it, with occasional harmony from Church and a lot of help from Church’s friends. In Church’s work, even poignant and personal songs usually arrive with an uptempo beat.

The boys swigged Jack and ribbed one another, as boys will do, but their talent and love for the music­­ came through on every song. Church—some combination of Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen and the irreverent Toby Keith (with whom he tours)—worked with his fellow writers Luke Laird, Ryan Tyndell, Jeff Hyde and Casey Beathard just like a railroad gang alternates sledgehammers, hitting the spike on the head every time.

—Suzanne Cadgene
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