One of the more earnest songs on Eric Church’s new album Mr. Misunderstood is “Kill a Word,” a dissertation on the sometimes harmful power of speech. Church, a North Carolina native, fantasizes about having the ability to rob words of any negative impact in the ballad, and he performed the song live in Los Angeles last week for A&E’s Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America. Highlights from the special aired last night.
But Church didn’t go it alone, instead recruiting Smokey Robinson, rapper-singer Aloe Blacc and powerhouse vocalist Rhiannon Giddens for a moving cross-genre and cross-cultural collaboration. With Church leading, each artist steps in for a key line, with Robinson, the R&B legend, bringing a high-register yearning to “I’d put ‘upset’ down in its place/squeeze the life out of ‘disgrace.'”
It’s hard to top Giddens’ moment, however, during which the former Carolina Chocolate Drops member shows why Church tapped her to sing on Mr. Misunderstood as well.
Other highlights of Shining a Light included Bruce Springsteen and John Legend playing Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots),” Legend and Pink singing “Someday We’ll All Be Free” and Zac Brown Band doing “Remedy” off their Jekyll & Hyde album.