Little Big Town threw their fans a curveball in 2016 when they released surprise album Wanderlust. The Country quartet took their sound in a new direction by working with Pharrell Williams and people weren’t quite sure what to make of it. Personally I appreciated the fresh vibe and the risk they took but while many fans were worried their favourite band had ditched Country music, Little Big Town were quietly working on their new album The Breaker, the follow-up to 2014’s mighty Pain Killer.
Last year Little Big Town released their new single Better Man, written by Taylor Swift, and their fans breathed a sigh of relief. The track was a return to the band’s roots and it scored them their third number one topping both the Hot Country Songs and the US Country Airplay charts. Recently the band unveiled new album The Breaker and it’s everything you would want to hear from Little Big Town and then some.
If ever there was any doubt that Little Big Town is a modern day Fleetwood Mac, then The Breaker can be used as proof. The album opens with the chilled-back vibe of Happy People featuring Karen Fairchild on lead vocals. The hushed verse vocals open up into rich harmonies on the chorus as a mid-tempo beat drives the melody. It’s perhaps folkier than we’ve heard from the band before and it sets the tone for a musically rich and varied album.
Lead vocal duties, as always, are split across the album. Karen gets the majority of leads but Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet and Kimberly Schlapman get their moments to shine too. When Someone Stops Loving You is Jimi’s finest moment as he delivers a soul-filled and gut-wrenching vocal. His vocals sit somewhere between rock and soul, and he adds a different dimension to the band when he takes the lead.
Phillip stands out on the album closer, and title track, The Breaker. An acoustic ballad co-written by one half of Brothers Osborne, The Breaker is a beautiful song about the end of a relationship and the realisation that you’ve broken someone’s heart. It’s a tender and passionate moment on the record, and one that will have you setting the album to repeat as soon as it finishes.
Kimberly takes lead on Beat Up Bible, stripping everything down and letting her sweet voice take the spotlight. She has a softer edge to her voice than Karen and it suits the gentle folkier moments that she gets to sing.
Elsewhere on the record Little Big Town showcase their untouchable ability to harmonise. Night On Our Side opens with a four-part harmony that makes you sit up and listen, Lost in California uses harmonies to help you enter a dreamlike state of bliss, and Drivin’ Around feels like a worthy follow-up to the band’s huge hit Day Drinkin’.
The standout moment on the record comes on Rollin’, where Jimi takes lead vocals. The track moves into Country rock and it’s the moments when the band comes together that really make the song standout. Jerky guitar rhythms drive the song into a sing-a-long feel-good chorus that you’ll be singing to after only one listen.
Little Big Town continue to operate in a league of their own. I can’t think of any other contemporary Country band that is as consistent as they are with their material. Each album builds on the last one and they always offer such a rich variety of music that it’s hard not to find something for everyone. The band’s vocals are, as always, their unique selling point, and they use them to fantastic effect on The Breaker.
Track Listing: 1. Happy People 2. Night On Our Side 3. Lost in California 4. Free 5. Drivin’ Around 6. We Went to the Beach 7. Better Man 8. Rollin’ 9. Don’t Die Young, Don’t Get Old 10. Beat Up Bible 11. When Someone Stops Loving You 12. The Breaker Record Label: Decca Release Date: 24th February 2017