Set the gimmicks of ‘Day Drinking’ aside, this is an album full of lyrical twists and sensational vocal performances. Little Big Town hit the big time, says Guy Little.
Fresh from a County Music Association gong for best vocal group, Little Big Town’s sixth studio album in 12 years is one with a pop slant and one which draws more than one comparison to Fleetwood Mac – not just because two band members are married, or because of the love drenched subject matter, but because of the rampant vocal harmonies and Buckingham-esque guitar licks on tracks such as ‘Save Your Sin’ and the delicate echo of ‘Live Forever’ which could’ve easily been a Rumours outtake.
The quartet extends their musical boundaries on Pain Killer and play into a rock sensibility without losing any of their award-winning identity. Crunching guitars and impeccable high harmonies are as defining as ever. It’s a record laced with punk, rock, country, and most things in between, yet its sound stays organised and thrilling through all 13 tracks. If you’re suffering from a “bro country” overdose, LBT provide the antidote.
Hot off the heels of their wildly successful Tornado album, the four-piece (Karen Fairchild, Phillip Seet, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook) who have been together for 15 years, have garnered many an award and kicked out hits left right and center (‘Pontoon’, ‘Tornado’, ‘Good As Gone’, ‘Bring It On Home’, ‘Little White Church’) and judging by the quality of the songwriting collaborations on Pain Killer, that trend isn’t ready to subside.
Lead single ‘Day Drinking’ while gimmicky proves to be the gateway into an album LBT fans have been waiting for. While all four members take their turn at lead vocals, it’s Fairchild who really shines. Wailing like a scorned lover taken for granted on ‘Things You Don’t Think About’ and on ‘Girl Crush’, she reveals a fiery side brimming with jealousy longing “to kiss her lips because they taste like you”. More longing and heart break follows with Jimi’s tenor on ‘Faster Gun’.
Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Amos Lee, Emmylou Harris, Cage The Elephant) who also took charge of the band’s 2012 record, Tornado, was at the helm of Pain Killer and although the record has its forlorn moments, there’s an in-your-face swagger to it (whether shining through with vigor on tracks like ‘Quit Breaking Up With Me’ and ‘Save Your Sin’, or a subtle middle finger in the quieter moments, of which there are a few) and when the music gets loud you’ll sure as hell know about it thanks to the assured delivery of the falsetto vocal lines and screaming guitars solos, but there’s the country twang the traditionalists will be craving on ‘Stay All Night’ and the swinging rhythms on ‘Good People’ with the Dobro making an appearance for good measure.
LBT co-wrote eight tracks of the 13-track offering and the songwriting really does prove heavyweight on ‘Tumble and Fall’ and the shimmering tones of ‘Live Forever’. It’s a tour-de-force of musicianship as uninhibited as their creative process – and, yes, it’s 16 years too late, but there’s no filler on Pain Killer.
Little Big Town’s Pain Killer is out now.
LBT on writing Pain Killer
‘We decided not to lock ourselves into writing as a group. We wanted a more relaxed and free approach,’ says Karen Fairchild. ‘There was no pressure to write as certain groups at certain times. We followed the inspiration instead of forcing it out. I don’t know that we would have written ‘Tumble and Fall’ if the boys were in the room, though. The writing process on that song was very therapeutic for all of us girls. Just as ‘Faster Gun’ is a guys’ song, it probably wouldn’t have turned out the same way if the girls had been in the room at that time.’
‘Jay [Joyce, producer] is such an amazing, creative person to work with,’ says Jimi Westbrook. ‘He takes you to places you don’t expect to go and you feel a lot of freedom in that.’
Jay Joyce: ‘Pain Killer has a lot of different sounds without sounding unorganized. It’s a more artistic album than LBT has done before and it has a lot of integrity.’
- Quit Breaking Up With Me
- Day Drinking
- Tumble And Fall
- Pain Killer
- Girl Crush
- Faster Gun
- Good People
- Stay All Night
- Save Your Sin
- Live Forever
- Thing You Don’t Think About
- Turn The Lights On
- Silver And Gold