Review : Eric Church - Carolina
PopmattersEric Church’s second album, Carolina, opens with a rush of big-guitar riffs and pounding drums, arena-rock style. Church starts singing through his issues. He’s overworked, stressed out and in bad health. Then, in a mighty hook of a chorus, he reveals the crux of his problems and why he lacks concern for his other concerns: His heart has been shattered, yet still he stands, so what else can happen to him? He paints a bleak picture of his life without her (“She turned this house into a tomb / Ghosts rattle in every room”) while still channeling a survivor’s mentality, a trick that gels perfectly with the tuneful, boisterous music.
Church kicked off his debut album, 2006’s Sinners Like Me, in similar fashion, with a song about his lover being gone—so gone Jesus will return before her. It’s not just the tone of this song, “Ain’t Killed Me Yet”, that’s snazzier. His band sounds tougher, better built. They power the song. That carries through the entire album. On Sinners Like Me, Church’s band did his songs no disservice, but this time around they impress. The rock songs rock harder, the pop songs are poppier and the ballads are layered with atmosphere.
Church’s inclination on Carolina is for feel-good songs about devastating heartbreak. Two of the pull quotes used to decorate photos in the CD booklet represent this partnership: “Wanna put some feel good in my soul” and “Your memory comes over me like the dark”. Absence haunts our narrator in seemingly every song, yet the songs rely on bright melodies over somber ones. The songwriters and the band translate these dark memories into upward movement, adding strength to propel that motion while making the music heavy and badass enough to keep the darkness always around....full text
BostonEric Church Carolina
Essential: "Where She Told Me to Go"
Eric Church plays Showcase Live on Friday.
It seems like every other face coming out of Nashville these days claims to be an outlaw in the Willie-Waylon mold. Very rarely does the music bear out this pose. But on his sophomore release, "Carolina," out next Tuesday, Eric Church and his don't-give-a-damn spirit comes closer than most.
Unfortunately, the one song that explicitly addresses the endless crop of "pretty boys acting tough," "Lotta Boot Left to Fill," feels like so much posturing. Cliched fighting words such as, "I don't think Waylon done it that way, and if he was here he'd say 'hoss, neither did Hank'," coupled with Church's not unattractive mug and a slick, springy Big & Rich-style track, don't exactly make for honky-tonk grit....full text
SlantmagazineNot so much an improvement as it is a lateral side-step of the modest charms of his 2006 debut, Sinners Like Me, Eric Church's Carolina often comes across as a strident stab at the mainstream commercial acceptance that has thus far eluded the singer-songwriter. While Sinners showed occasional flourishes of a truly distinctive songwriting voice, the songs Church has written and co-written here fall into many of the same traps that have left mainstream country feeling so soulless and anonymous lately. Both "Where She Told Me to Go" and opener "Ain't Killed Me Yet" hinge on turns of phrase that simply aren't clever or memorable enough to function as viable hooks, while single "Love Your Love the Most" is yet another one of Music Row's interminable series of songs that substitute lists of common references—among the things Church loves are sleeping in on Saturdays, college football games, good barbeque, NASCAR, George Strait, and Jack Daniels mixed with Coke—in lieu of actual substantive lyrics.
I'll begrudgingly concede Church some credit for name-checking William Faulkner, which reflects a refreshing degree of literacy that's been absent from the genre for entirely too long, but even that's still just an empty reference that has no greater bearing on the context of an otherwise inert song. And that's a significant problem for a record on which Church boasts, on album-closing ballad "Those I've Loved," that "it was never about trying to be some big star/For me it's always been about these songs." It's a noble sentiment, sure, but his songwriting simply isn't as sharp here as it was on, to pick the best example, the title track from his debut....full text
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