Eric Church at Desoto Civic Center 

Country singer-songwriter Eric Church salutes Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen on his breakthrough third album, Chief. And while he's unlikely to become the kind of "Country Music Jesus" he claims we need, he does evoke a couple of somewhat less hallowed but still terrific precursors. Church inhabits a musical midpoint between harder-edged contemporary Jamey Johnson and early, almost-an-actual-country-star Steve Earle (circa Guitar Town), while being a little more conservative and a little more pop-friendly than either. Outside of the homier Brad Paisley, Church is the best thing going in the realm of male country singers at the moment, standing out amid the series of anonymous hunks country radio and CMT keep pushing up the charts. Chief is keyed by two terrific singles — the culturally thorny warning/plea to a younger brother "Homeboy," and the party-starting farewell to the working week "Drink in My Hand" — but he has a depth and unity beyond the ken of most long-players in what's still a singles-and-filler genre, showing off classic country songcraft on spirited barroom laments like "Jack Daniels" ("kicked my ass again last night") and ("she got a rock and") "I'm Gettin' Stoned." Church's "Blood, Sweat and Beers" tour will play the DeSoto Civic Center Saturday, January 21st, with Brantley Gilbert. Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets are $34.75 and $42.50. — Chris Herrington

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