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Church on a roll with ‘Blood, Sweat and Beers’

By JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published December 6, 2012 at 3:44 a.m.

Eric Church

— Singer-songwriter Eric Church has worked his way up the country music ladder, so fans who only a few years ago saw him on the club level in Little Rock can now see him on his first-ever headlining jaunt, “The Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour,” tonight at North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena.

It took only three albums for Church to hit the proverbial big time: Sinners Like Me, in 2006; Carolina in 2009; and Chief in 2011, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. Sinners Like Me contained the Top 20 singles “How ’Bout You,” “Two Pink Lines” and “Guys Like Me.” Carolina upped the ante, with Top 10 singles “Love Your Love the Most” and “Hell on the Heart,” while Chief (which was the nickname of Church’s grandfather and is now used by Church) contains his first No. 1 hit single, “Drink in My Hand.”

Along the way, he picked up the Academy of Country Music New Solo Vocalist of the Year Award in 2011 and the Country Music Association Award for Album of the Year earlier this year. Church, 35, was born and reared in Granite Falls, N.C., where he took up guitar at age 13, later graduating from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., with a degree in marketing, which might have come in handy once he started his country music career in Nashville, Tenn., when he co-wrote a 2005 Terri Clark single, “The World Needs a Drink.”

His 2013 plans include the release of his first live album, recorded in October at the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga, Tenn. His calendar will also contain some time off before he begins work on his next studio album, his publicist notes — although in early November, Kenny Chesney announced that his 2013 “No Shoes Nation Tour” will include Church, along with the Zac Brown Band, the Eli Young Band and Kacey Musgraves.

Church’s opening acts tonight will be a pair of Moores: Arkansas’ own Justin Moore, and Kip Moore, who hails from Georgia. Justin Moore, 29, was born and grew up in Poyen, in Grant County, eight miles east of Malvern. The two Moores are not related.

Justin Moore left Poyen for Nashville in 2002, but it took six years before his debut Top 40 single, “Back That Thing Up.” His next single, “Small Town USA,” was the story of his upbringing in Poyen, and a No. 1 hit. His next No. 1 was “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” in 2011. Other singles have made it to the Top 20: “Backwoods,” “How I Got To Be This Way” and “Bait a Hook.” His debut self-titled album came out in August 2009 and its follow-up, Outlaws Like Me, came out in June 2011.

He and his wife, Kate, have two daughters: Ella, who will turn 3 in February, and Kennedy, whose first birthday was in November.

Kip Moore released his debut album, Up All Night, in April. The album contains his first No. 1 single, “Somethin’ ’Bout a Truck,” a song that combines images of ice-cold beer, the bed of a pickup truck, a girl in a red sundress and a creek. Growing up in Tilton, Ga., not far from the Florida state line, Moore moved to Hawaii after college, then on to Nashville in 2004, although it was early 2011 before the release of his first single, “Mary Was the Marrying Kind.”

A noted Nashville journalist, Robert K. Oermann, writing in Music Row magazine, says of Kip Moore: “This man just might be the hillbilly Springsteen.”

(Church, however, is the guy with the No. 1 hit named “Springsteen,” released in February this year.)

All three singers are in this week’s Billboard Top 10 Country Singles chart: Justin Moore has the No. 6 song, “Til My Last Day,” Kip Moore is at No. 7 with his third single, “Beer Money,” and Church holds down No. 10 with “Creepin’. ”

Eric Church

Openers: Justin Moore, Kip Moore

7:30 p.m. today, Verizon Arena, East Broadway and Interstate 30, North Little Rock

Tickets: $59 “pit” standing room; $54 and $49 reserved floor and lower bowl

(800) 745-3000

ticketmaster.com

Weekend, Pages 34 on 12/06/2012

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