Looking and sounding at first like a clone of the grotesque Daryl Worley, Church brings a degree of honesty and more than a few genuinely clever turns-of-phrase to his songwriting, giving his debut album, Sinners Like Me, far more meat than some of his contemporaries could hope to match. With so many acts in Nashville simply putting on a cowboy hat and screaming adult contemporary ballads and passing it off as country music, the authenticity of the first-person experiences that Church shares in his songs—of his grandfather catching him sneaking his first beer on the standout title track, to pick the best example—is more than a little refreshing, and it’s entirely effective in establishing a clear identity for Church as a country artist. Despite a few missteps—lead single “How ‘Bout You” fits with the album’s overall tone, but too many of its lines are empty posturing, and opener “Before She Does” unfortunately gives away its punchline (“I believe that Jesus is coming back/Before she does”) in the title—Sinners Like Me is a solidly written album. The problems for Church, then, are that he’s an obviously limited singer and that the album doesn’t capitalize on his distinctive writing with an identifiable sound. “How ‘Bout You” lifts its production from Dierks Bentley’s “A Lot Of Leavin’ Left To Do,” while the remainder of the album alternates between traditional-leaning mid-tempo cuts that could pass for Joe Nichols or Blake Shelton and harder-edged country-rock that sounds like Keith Anderson and Jason Aldean. Given the strength of his songwriting, it’s a shame that Church’s debut sounds so anonymous.
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