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Arts & Entertainment New wave of music created by WNC native

Western North Carolina native, Eric Church, performed last week in Duluth, Georgia, just a short drive from Macon County. The country music artist in notorious for his lackadaisical attitude and rock and roll/country sound. Eric Church performed with Justin Moore and Kip Moore at the Gwinnett Civic Center. Photo by Brittney ParkerEric Church’s Duluth concert leaves an impression.

Western North Carolina native and Appalachian State University graduate Eric Church continues to change the face of American country music.

His rebel-without-a-cause attitude and fearless ambition to go against the grain continues to barrel his music to the top of music charts. While some artists are only as entertaining as the songs that they have written for them, Eric Church owns each word and each verse of his music. Having an influence in what music you sing, and writing your own songs often presents a challenge that your intention may not be conveyed to the proper audience, but Eric doesn't seem to have that problem. I have been a fan of Eric Church since he first started, when he was playing for free for no more than 30 people in a college bar. I was certain, that like so many other artists, with fame, Eric's style and musical message would get altered to make more money, but after watching him perform last week at the Gwinnett Civic Center in Duluth, Ga., I stand corrected.

Since the release of his first album, “Sinners Like Me” in 2006, Eric Church has led his pack one-by-one through retrospective songwriting, invigorating live shows, and a hard-boiled attitude soaked in blood and sweat, and ice cold beers. His “don’t-backdown” attitude and road-less-traveled approach have helped earn his latest ground-breaking album “Chief” the coveted Album of the Year title at the 2012 CMA Awards and RIAA Platinum certification with over one million copies sold. “Chief” has produced No. 1 singles “Drink In My Hand,” (RIAA Gold-certified), “Springsteen” (RIAA Platinum-certified), and latest fan-favorite “Creepin,’” not to mention, his firstever headlining arena tour, aptly titled “Eric Church: The Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour,” will have sold more than one million tickets by January 2013. With no shortage of accolades as he gears up for his first live album release in February 2013, there’s no doubt Eric's tenacious tribe of disciples, better known as “Church's Choir,” are demanding the world’s attention as they catapult their “chief” from smoky barroom songster to country music superstar.

I have never been to a show that comes close to the one Eric Church put on last week in Duluth. At times I forgot I was at a concert because the theatrics and concept behind the show's design was far more than a guy on stage in cowboy boots with a guitar singing about his high school sweetheart.

From appearing on stage in a cloud of smoke, to a multitude of backdrops that built ambiance and emotion behind each of Eric's song sets, it was more than a concert, it was a total experience. From the colored bulbs that calmed the audience when a song called for it, to laser lights that reached the farthest seat in the auditorium, to the power behind the fire and sparks that shattered on to the stage, every aspect of the concert evoked a specific emotion from the crowd.

Even Eric's anticipated outfit adds to the show's intent; his ball cap and aviator sunglasses have become a trademark that echoes the message that what you see is what you get, and what you get is honest and real.

While Eric's apathetic attitude toward achieving success which was replaced with a raw desire to create music could have been career ending, his fans resonate with his politically incorrect lyrics and promise that in each song a melody would inevitably provide listeners with a memory that will be forever embedded in their souls.

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the show was when Eric stepped away from the band and all the other extras, turned the lights down low, and performed with nothing but his guitar and his voice, the same sort of show I remember him doing in 2006 when no one knew his name. Eric made it a point to explain how important that portion of the show was to him, in order to keep him grounded and focused on the reasons he started making music in the first place. There have been very few artists over the years that have been able to sustain a career based on raw talent, a trait that is even less recognizable today with the increase in technology. Eric not only proves time and time again that he is the kind of artist that can excel with nothing more than his voice and lyrics that he develops himself, but he strives to make it a point to do so. When he stood in front of a packed arena, with all eyes on him for just a few moments, his passion and dedication were undeniable and the raw talent and pure intent was more than some artists experience in a lifetime.

Just when I thought that everything had been done, and there was little left to be explored in the musical realm, Eric Church came along to pave a new road and be an innovator in pure, rock and roll country music.

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