Album Review: Little Big Town – The Breaker

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Little Big Town feel like an anomaly across popular music genres. Three out of four members are 45 or older, yet they reach new summits today in a way they struggled to at the typically more marketable age of ~30, when their 2002 self-titled debut lost steam at its US Country Albums chart peak of #40. It only takes one look at their album covers from then and now to see their evolution into an effortless cool. Lord knows creativity isn’t a sure-fire method for chart success, but for now, the best harmonies since Dixie Chicks from four dynamic vocalists and an inspired risk here and there seem to be doing the trick. They’ve mastered when to hold back and when to let loose, and this – along with those distinct, capable and emotive voices – lends them a dependable malleability. It’s irresistible.

Little Big Town: Then & Now

Full knowledge of their strengths is put to use here, although if you’re familiar with their discography, you surely expect nothing less. The colourful, catchy opener ‘Happy People’ is one of many sound possibilities for singles across this album’s cycle, and could be an excellent left-field follow up to their third #1 single ‘Better Man’. The Taylor Swift-penned ballad has a pronounced air of regret in Karen Fairchild’s gifted hands that was definitely not guaranteed in its writer’s. The conversational, contemplative, confessional ‘We Went To the Beach’ departs from traditional song structures, but also retains hit potential through a sharp, familiar narrative and a John Mayer-esque guitar solo.

Fairchild, Schlapman, Sweet and Westbrook only have three writing cuts across the album, and unfortunately these don’t make up the album’s best material. ‘Don’t Die Young, Don’t Get Old’ and ‘Night On Our Side’ are some of the album’s weirder moments, making use of progressive melodies and some spacey, electronic production. While historically the band have been best at their wackiest (see ‘Stay All Night’ from “Pain Killer”), these just don’t quite manage to distinguish Little Big Town as the charming band that they are. Not to worry though: elsewhere, the likes of Lori McKenna’s pen add compelling maturity, reliable long-time producer Jay Joyce is nothing if not sonically inspired, and the four vocalists still perform an array of believable characters. It’s a formula that has led to a hat-trick of albums bursting with 4+ star material, now complete with “The Breaker”. Both bombastic good-time anthems and honest, deeply-thematic ballads risk wildly overstepping the line into cheese material in less capable hands, but that’s nothing Little Big Town have ever lapsed into, and not how they’ll ever be remembered.

The final three songs of the set are a triptych of heartbreak, as they recapture the emotional heft that made songs like ‘Your Side of the Bed’ and ‘Girl Crush’ so affecting. Unlike the heavier, brasher cuts ‘Rollin’’ and ‘Drivin’ Around’, the closing ballads pull back on the instrumentation throttle in favour of an adult-contemporary ambience, planting focus directly on applaudable lyrical content. ‘Girl Crush’ writers McKenna and Hillary Lindsay return with only the intent to achieve, and achieve they do; this is some of the best material Little Big Town have ever cut. ‘The Breaker’, as an ambiguous phrase chosen to title the album, does not prepare the listener for the Brothers Osborne-penned finale about tough decisions and consequences. ‘I shot the stars out of your sky, took the love right from your eyes, and I did it all knowing you thought I was the hero of your heart, but I turned out to be The Breaker”.

Little Big Town are a commodity whose wide appeal has yet to translate to the transatlantic success they deserve. Especially given their attention towards UK audiences, it is a shock that their legions of edible material have not resulted in a radio hit here thus far. I like to think it’s only a matter of time. Their music is ageless, and it’s always easy to tell when you’re listening to Little Big Town.

  Track List
  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


About the Author

Alex

I'm Alex, 21 and from Greenwich, home of C2C! A lifetime lover and player of music, I got into Country during my early teens and I've been hooked ever since. I want to be part of the new and exciting UK Country movement, heighten exposure, and show people just how great the genre can be.