Little Big Town, the country group comprised of Phillip Sweet, Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, and Jimi Westbrook, just released their newest album this past week entitled Tornado. The fun lead off single “Pontoon” has been a huge summer hit and marks the group’s first number one single. Surprising that this is the first number one hit for this very talented group that has been established for a few years. According to a recent article in Billboard, Little Big Town “have endured quite a roller-coaster ride since joining forces more than a decade ago. Says Schlapman: ‘We certainly had our frustrating moments. For whatever reason, some things worked out and some things did not, but they surely formed who we are today and got us to this point, so we have to be grateful.’”
In that same article in Billboard, they discuss their first single, “Pontoon”: “It was so different, we knew that it was going to stick out like a sore thumb on radio,” Fairchild says. “But we loved it so much we thought the fans would have the same reaction we did. You never know what’s going to light up the fans and they have latched onto this song and made it their own.”
“Tornado is a blend of potent uptempo numbers alongside compelling ballads. ‘We really want people to hear this whole record, all 11 songs,’ Fairchild says. ‘It’s a collection of music that we’ve done because we feel like these songs belong together and have their own life as a body.’” You can read more of that interview with Billboard in their current issue.
So, what are MY thoughts about this new album from Little Big Town? Well, I’ve always thought they have some of the best harmonies out there and sound just as good live as they do on any of their recorded music. And, they’re also some of the nicest people around, they didn’t even get mad at me when I accidentally blinded them with my flash on my camera that didn’t have a diffuser on it that day like it was supposed to when I covered the TJ Martell Ride For A Cure (a charity event they headline each year) in Nashville a couple of years ago! We just got a good laugh about it that day. Sorry, guys, I’ve blinded myself accidentally with that flash a time or two myself accidentally when testing it before I covered it with a diffuser. Yes, my flash is much stronger than I thought on that camera! Anyway, back to the review because I wondered off…
This new album is their best release to date and definitely lives up to all the hype that has surrounded it prior to the release. It’s not overly-produced and has a much more organic feel. They infuse plenty of mandolin, banjo, and let their harmonies shine. They take chances with their music by doing something a little different from everyone else. I.E. I’ve been a big fan of their “Scattered, Smothered, and Covered” video series where they took popular songs from the pop genre and put their own country twist to them as only Little Big Town can do. “Pontoon” sounds completely different from any country song out there and they hoped that people would love it as much as they did when creating it. Luckily, people grasped right on to it and it became the standout summer anthem. “Can’t Go Back” and “Night Owl” are both done completely acoustic and stripped down to just guitar. Not many artists would have the confidence to do that on a fully-produced album, but Little Big Town aren’t afraid of taking chances and that’s what I like that about them, especially. They aren’t afraid to go outside the box and take a chance, plus they always make it seem like so much fun when they do!
My favorites off the album are: “Pavement Ends”–a fun, uptempo song that starts out with banjo and just takes off from there. This one has a rockabilly-type feel to it, the first song on the album, and makes you just want to get up to dance. Of course, who doesn’t love “Pontoon” and doesn’t want to be out on that pontoon relaxing on the lake with them? That song just doesn’t get old. Love the heavy use of mandolin in this song, too. “Front Porch Thing” starts out with just their voices and then this mid-tempo number just flows. I love the more traditional feel of this song and it truly is the “country blues”. “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise…”–who hasn’t heard THAT phrase if you grew up in the South? I know I have many times! And, there’s the somber & touching ballad “Your Side Of The Bed” about a relationship gone bad and wondering how it all went wrong. You are hearing the thoughts of the 2 lovers separately rather than only one person’s point of view in this song. You can just imagine them both laying in the bed at night, separate, turned away from each other, unable to sleep, and thoughts running through their heads.
The whole album is beautiful blend of music and I highly recommend it. It’s so well-constructed and artfully done all the way through from top to bottom. There’s something here for everyone to love who enjoys country music with songs that are inventive, fun, and thought-provoking.
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.
While you’re at it, check out this fun video below where a lot of their friends decided to jump in on the fun of “Pontoon”! See how many country stars you can spot!