Eric Church: Heart & Soul review – when the cliched fireworks die down, a hollowness remains

Fri, Apr 16, 2021, 05:00


Heart & Soul

Eric Church

Spinefarm Records


Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe we should just call it entertainment and be glad of it. But it is still hard to imagine how a much-lauded singer-songwriter can assemble a bunch of top-notch musicians in a cabin in North Carolina for a month, with the aim of writing and recording a song every day, and somehow avoid mentioning the pandemic or, indeed, the culture wars/political dogfight convulsing the US over the past year. 

It is not as if there was limited opportunity. Eric Church, CMA entertainer of the year, delivers 24 new tracks spread over three albums, with the first, Heart, released on Friday – but only to fans who subscribe for $35 to his Church Choir fanclub – and the final album, Soul, due for general release the following week.

Church is an interesting figure, talented, savvy and driven. He has built up a huge following with his blend of classic southern rock and Nashville tropes, carefully modulated to appeal to a younger generation more attuned to crash chords than steel guitar. His influences may range wide but he and producer Jay Joyce know how to corral them within the country aesthetic.

The result may set toes tapping and hearts beating, but when the cliched fireworks die down, a hollowness remains. Fast cars can take burning desire only so far.