Little Big Town are back with a new project. Well, I say ‘back’, but they did release ‘Wanderlust’ produced by Pharrell last year in a dance/RnB side project that just didn’t work at all. Leaving that aside, Little Big Town are back doing what they do best. Although sonically different to the ‘Painkiller’ album, the standards have certainly been maintained and there’s more than enough on their latest offering to keep those shelves filling up with awards.
The album kicks off on a positive, optimistic note with the gloriously refreshing ‘Happy People’, penned by Lori McKenna and Hailey Whitters. When the former is credited on a song, you’re guaranteed a degree of quality. This is a refreshing return to the style of a personal favourite LBT track, ‘Leavin’ In Your Eyes’ from the ‘Tornado’ album. An intricate yet simplistic foot-tapping melody with sublime use of acoustic guitars, enhancing a song that, lyrically, couldn’t have been released at a better time.
“If you wanna know the secret, can’t buy I gotta make it
You ain’t ever gonna be it by taking someone else’s away
Never take it for granted, you don’t have to understand it
Here’s to whatever puts a smile on your face
Whatever makes you happy people”
An uplifting track preaching love, forgiveness and peace. Another master stroke from two incredibly gifted song writers.
Fans of Little Big Town’s more melodically powerful material will also be pleased. ‘Night On Our Side’, ‘Drivin’ Around’ and ‘Rollin’ provide those signature punchy rhythms and anthemic choruses that consistently form the spine of any Little Big Town album. ‘Night On Our Side’ is a decent bet for a future single release and could well be the opener to their live shows. There’s an otherworldly, electronic Pet Shop Boys-esque vibe about it that will translate very well to the mainstream listeners. ‘Drivin’ Around’ is this album’s re-incarnation of ‘Stay All Night’; it’s the track that took me a few listens to properly grasp. A loud, very heavy party anthem with Karen singing lead vocals. The more you listen, the more it draws you in and it’s an intriguing leap in musical style from the rest of the album.
It’s no coincidence that my favourites on the album involved Lori McKenna in the writing process. ‘Lost In California’ (written with the ‘Girl Crush’ dream team, Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose) totally wraps you up in its warmth; the production is deep, soulful and simply sublime. Atmospheric instrumentation and spine-tingling harmonies – LBT at their very best.
‘When Someone Stops Loving You’ is another McKenna masterpiece and has the potential to be another ‘Girl Crush’.
“When someone stops loving you
It don’t make the evening news
It don’t keep the sun from rising, the clock from winding, your heart from beating
Even when you want it to
When someone stops loving you”
This one slows the pace right down to a Chris Stapleton-like tempo and sees Jimi Westbrook taking the lead. A heart-wrenching, post-breakup powerhouse of a song that adds a whole different dimension to the album. A mega hit waiting to happen.
‘Beat Up Bible’ also seems to have become an early fan favourite judging from social media reaction. This is stripped back so far that it sounds like we’re intruding on a writing session. Nothing more than a couple of acoustic guitars and a subtle piano, allowing the foursome to showcase their unbelievable vocal ability. Kimberly rarely sings lead vocals and judging by this, she should be doing it far more often. Stunning.
“I can hear her saying
Baby, when you praying
Give him all your words, he’ll give you all you need.
When you’re crying and you’re hurting
And nothing else is working
All you’ve got to do is just believe
In this beat up bible”.
I also recommend ‘We Went To The Beach’ which is Phillip Sweet’s time to shine. There’s a lovely tropical, summer vibe to this track and it’s the ultimate chill-out soundtrack (although it doesn’t have the same effect at 5 degrees with the heating on). It’s one of those ‘roll your windows down and soak up the sun’ songs.
Having picked out some personal favourites, I must address that the whole album is a gem and every track has its qualities. It’s another step up from its predecessor and another phenomenal example of Little Big Town’s immense talent. Why they haven’t achieved any kind of mainstream success in the UK is beyond me, but there’s plenty of material here that could kick start their rise. I can’t wait to see them back on our shores in September!