Grade • B-
CD • Country artists are typically road warriors, and usually show off a charisma, energy and command that artists in other genres rarely summon. So why don't more country singers release live albums?
Possibly because for all of their virtues, there are few Nashville musicians like North Carolina's Eric Church, who treats his shows as if they are revivals. Is it any wonder that Church's signature song is called "Springsteen"? Church was the most underrated singer-songwriter until 2011, when his third album, "Chief," hit the airwaves. It was then that the world realized what a talented wordsmith and bona-fide firecracker he is.
On "Eric Church: Caught in the Act: Live," the rock-influenced musician sounds positively gleeful, while headlining arenas and amphitheaters for the first time. And he comes off equally genuine when he strips down a song (such as "Sinners Like Me") to its barest, moving core, or when he lets loose a swaggering anthem (such as opener "Before She Does," where he proclaims "I believe that Jesus is comin' back / Before she does," and "There's absolutely, positively no doubt in my mind / That OJ did it; Lee Harvey didn't / An' she's really gone this time"). With sterling musicianship, a voice with the right balance of grit and twang, and songs of conviction that shine with improvisation ("Springsteen," for one, opens with an elegiac piano and ends with an echo of "Born to Run"), this live album is alive.
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