Little Big Town
Well just look at those titles, readers – very Brian Wilson/Beach Boys, are they not? But this talented quartet (adding a band for touring) can play many instruments and all sing lead, so they have their own thing going. Not to say the influence of Brian Wilson cannot be detected, or for that matter traces of Jimmy Webb, David Gates, Jackie de Shannon. Lensman John and I saw this act at Country2Country last year in London and have been awaiting their return to these shores. The outfit’s sound has depth, colour, harmonies galore, texture with electricity when needed and enough edge to lift them from very good to outstanding. And they write…boy, do they write! Jay Joyce produces the record with a seeming remit to explore but stay melodic. A quick word for the photography which shows the four out in the country and is beautifully presented.
Lead cut Happy People bounces off with unison vocals backed up by splashes of harmony, all over a sprightly acoustic guitar-led backdrop with 50s organ and slices of pedal steel. It’s a fat and rich sound but the melody is intact; Night On Our Side has a huge sound, reverbed slide guitar prominent in the mix and a heavy backbeat. The sound is very airy and the voices combine with an elemental strength. Fleetwood Mac on a hillside, perhaps. But they have their own touch of celestial country edge.
Lost In California goes for an eerier, twinkling guitar vibe, a plaintive lead vocal that puts over the tale in a sensual fashion. LBT often hold something back for emphasis when needed. What they are NOT is four singers each fighting for the spotlight, it is very much a sophisticated blend and here the band sound is fully used, not pushed back in the mix. Each vocalist has a distinctive timbre – something evident when you see them perform – but the endless possibilities they can combine into, sometimes fleetingly, gives them a sense of class. Free paints a picture of small town life, only missing the smell of apple pie. A floating blend of voices keeps things nimble. This already sounds like a stage favourite. Lovely guitar on this one.
Ridin’ Around is almost too strident, the group rip into this tune. It’s more a concert item than one for the listening lounge. But this does show you just what the voices can achieve in dynamics. Reminds me a tad of The Association, if your memory goes back that far. We Went To The Beach has a springheeled acoustic guitar setting, telling of summertime family holidays at the seaside, scrubbing along. I can think of nothing worse! But I am more likely to buy a chandelier than a surf board.
Better Man is a reflective composition with a late-night sound, all love damage and ruminations thereon the melody is very Lady Antebellum, though LBT probably got there first on the timeline. Rollin’ rocks out with fuzz guitars and a strong lead vehicle, convincingly handled and something of the spirit of the Delaney and Bonnie of old. A good inclusion. Don’t Die Young, Don’t Get Old is a bit of a Billy Idol title. But it’s a skipping uptempo thang based on a cyclic chordal run and mandolin which shows LBT off as the unique ensemble they are. Irresistible and likely the boss track on his collection, certainly in its execution. This will be one of their enduring songs.
Beat Up Bible is as moody as this collection gets, a John Prine backdrop. I recoil from religious songs but this is carefully handled and doubtless well-intended. When Someone Stops Loving You is a ballad with a gentle lilt, maybe the best lead vocal on the record. A lost love lament, put over as well as any act could and maybe the song that stays with you most after you have played the album. Title cut The Breaker is a haunting folky complements the last number, more band harmony used but with taste.
Maybe a little too country for some, this group is stuffed with talent, team spirit and strength applied with artistic feel. They must be experienced live, though.
Little Big Town’s new studio album ‘The Breaker’ is out now on Capitol.
For more information just gallop over to http://www.littlebigtown.com/
In addition, the band will be touring the UK in Autumn 2017 with special guest Seth Ennis at the following venues:
Wednesday 27th September 2017 – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2mFh5SW
Thursday 28th September 2017 – Albert Hall, Manchester, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2qlEoAn
Friday 29th September 2017 – O2 Institute, Birmingham, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2a1lCcl
Sunday 1st October 2017 – The Sage, Gateshead, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2a3RVJk
Monday 2nd October 2017 – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2mFh5SW
Tuesday 3rd October 2017 – Colston Hall, Bristol, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/29StdKT
Thursday 5th October 2017 – (Part of the Albert Sessions) Royal Albert Hall, London, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2p2IG2t