Eric 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.
It's a great line that Eric Church means when he sings, but he can't quite convince listeners that he's in the outlaw tradition of Cash, Waylon, and Hank. Church sings like a manicured model, striking all the poses and hitting all the notes, but missing that essential grit. Of course, he isn't helped out by the production of his second album Carolina, a recording that gleams pristine, designed for two drinks at an after-work smokeless bar, not a long booze-filled night at a honky tonk dive.