"There are times when the country outlaw makes like the Boss of Nashville," PEOPLE music critic says

By PEOPLE Music Critic Chuck Arnold
Updated February 14, 2014 03:25 PM
Credit: Universal Nashville/AP

In 2012 Eric Church scored the biggest hit of his career with “Springsteen,” and there are times on his fourth studio album, The Outsiders, when the country outlaw makes like the Boss of Nashville.

Just listen to him come out rocking hard on the title-track first single, a stomping rebel anthem that wants to tear the roof off the honky-tonk.

On another electric-guitar-charged rave-up, “That’s Damn Rock & Roll,” Church gets in the gospel spirit to deliver more righteous, Bruce-esque passion, while “Give Me Back My Hometown,” the nostalgic second single, nods to Springsteen’s “My Hometown.”

But even if Church prefers baseball caps to cowboy hats, some of the best Outsiders moments – from the reflective ballads “Dark Side” and “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young” to “Cold One,” a beer-swilling breakup song – are firmly rooted in good ol’ country tradition.