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Album Review | COUNTRY

Eric Church, ‘The Outsiders’

Eric Church made two strong albums in the aughts, but his compelling 2011 release, “Chief,” announced that the contemporary country singer-songwriter was a force with which to be reckoned. The reckoning continues on the superb follow-up “The Outsiders.” Again in cahoots with producer Jay Joyce, Church offers several tunes ripe for arena sing-alongs including the big beat title track — which borders on corny, lyrically, but uncoils like a hissing snake — and the bursting-with-bravado rave-up “That’s Damn Rock and Roll.” “The Outsiders” is most revelatory in its quieter and freakier moments. In the case of the former, the tender “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young,” locates the pathos inside the chest-pounder, and “Broke Record” has a lightness, joy, and an alluring mania as Church compares his attraction to a woman to a melody stuck in his head with a sexy soulfulness. And few crossover country types are crafting songs as delightfully nutty as the epic “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)” in which Church intones darkly about the ecstasy and agony of trying to make it in Nashville. (Out Tuesday)

ESSENTIAL “Broke Record”

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