By Trevor Christian
Little Big Town’s latest album, “Pain Killer” hit shelves on Tuesday. It’s already being called one of the better country albums of 2014. Even in the busy month of October, which has seen releases from some of the genre’s top acts, here’s why “Pain Killer” is worth checking out.
You’ve wanted more of “Tornado” for the last two years
Tornado produced the number one hit “Pontoon” and a few other memorable singles, including the euphoric “Sober.” Little Big Town found a strong direction with “The Reason Why” by letting Karen Fairchild take on the role of lead singer on more tracks, but the band showed what that could mean with “Tornado.” The confidence they gained last time around carried over into “Pain Killer” and allowed for some experimentation. Luckily, it almost all works.
“Day Drinking” helped make your summer a relaxing one.
“Day Drinking” may not be the most substantive single Little Big Town has ever produced, but it is among the most chill. It’s inventive in its own way, especially in terms of the drum work. It also comes with useful instructions for a lazy summer day.
Little Big Town is the newest member of the Opry.
There’s a good chance the timing of the band’s induction had to do with critics and the country music community getting a hold of their new album. Their consistent quality over the years is clearly a factor, but “Tornado” and “Pain Killer” probably put them over the edge.
“Girl Crush” is a bold move that deserves to be rewarded.
“I want to taste her lips/Yeah, ‘cause they taste like you/I want to drown myself/In a bottle of her perfume”
The vulnerability Fairchild puts on display in “Girl Crush” might be the highlight of the album. In an era where most country bands are singing about the same truck on the same dirt road, such originality is refreshing.
Because somehow they pull off reggae and dance crossovers.
“Turn the Lights On” is more dance than country, but it’s not nearly as awkward as it should be. It’s still the lone weak song on the album. The reggae sounds on the title track are far more effective and could actually produce a hit.
Shane McAnally wrote on two tracks.
“Quit Breaking Up With Me” is McAnally at his finest. The band’s newest single allows Fairchild to show off her sassy side while trying to rescue a troubled relationship. It’s witty, catchy and still finds time to address a few emotions.
You’ve been loving the ’70s throwbacks in country music this year.
Jennifer Nettles blended the sounds of the ’70s with Southern soul in January. Lee Ann Womack delivered a traditional album that plays like it had been written in an era gone by. In an article in the Tennessean, Fairchild describes “Pain Killer” as “70s Jerry Reed-inspired country funk.” There are certainly tracks where it’s easy to see the influence.
These are some of the sweetest harmonies Little Big Town has ever produced.
“Live Forever” and “Silver and Gold” prove that the band can thrive without assigning a strong lead role in a song. They’re both subdued, sweet and sound almost heavenly. “Tumble and Fall” relies on a duet between the guys and the girls. “Faster Gun” may not be sweet in the least, but it’s another great example how effective Little Big Town can be when holding back.
The critics think you should listen to a mainstream country act.
Critics, both amateur and professional, are increasingly turning against mainstream country albums, including some of the biggest names in the genre. Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley and even Blake Shelton have received lukewarm reviews on average in the last few months. Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line were practically punchlines. But Rolling Stone and Billboard both called the album bold and successful. This critic agrees.
Jennifer Nettles told you to.
Nettles took to Facebook encouraging fans to listen, something she doesn’t do often. Nettles, who recently toured with Brandy Clark and worked with Kristian Bush for many years in Sugarland, has shown exceptional taste in music.