Thursday 5/17

Eric Church's "Chief" was the best country album of 2011, a potent combination of honky-tonk rambunctiousness, small-town sensibilities and rock 'n' roll heart. It's produced three hits: the obvious "Drink in My Hand," which traveled to No. 1; the offbeat "Homeboy," about a small-town kid who loves hip-hop, and the oddball "Springsteen," about romancing a woman to tunes by the Boss. The 35-year-old North Carolinian combines the cleverness of Brad Paisley, the edginess of Jason Aldean and the party bent of Kid Rock. Church's Blood, Sweat & Beers Tour -- his first arena headline trek -- includes the loud and brash Brantley Gilbert, who has written hits for Aldean, and newcomer Jon Pardi.