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THE ROADClassic Hits And More

Eric Church - Soul

Soul is the third part of a trilogy called Heart & Soul, a project that materialized when Eric Church realized he and his band had written and recorded enough material during a fruitful month in North Carolina to warrant something bigger than a standard LP. Church wound up completing 24 songs, enough to fill a conventional double-LP, yet they're spread across two tight nine-song LPs connected by a mini-LP containing songs that purportedly don't fit into either the "Heart" or "Soul" themes. The dividing thematic line is fairly thin. Where Heart fittingly relied on matters of the heart, Soul is the funkier platter, the one bearing songs called "Rock & Roll Found Me," "Bad Mother Trucker" and "Lynyrd Skynyrd Jones" -- titles that signify Church's outlaw swagger even if they're fairly subdued as far rock & roll goes (the latter is an acoustic ballad, after all). Church never quite cranks the amps to 11, preferring to settle into a swampy funk that lets his band groove. It's an appealing sound, one flexible enough to accommodate the churchy flourishes on the soulful "Look Good and You Know It" and the nimble electro-rockabilly fusion of "Break It Kind of Guy," yet it also blurs the division between Soul, Heart and &. Each record ambles along at an easy pace, with the songs played with precision and soul, the ambition only apparent in the cumulative heft of the set; individual songs are sharply crafted yet unassuming in their reach. This modesty may be more palatable as a collection of three records than as one long set, as the succinct running times helps keep the focus on the songs, which stand on their own merits better than they do as a collection. Standing apart from the greater Heart & Soul, Soul is a relaxed good time, the kind of record to spin during a long lazy sunset.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine


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