Lady Antebellum probably needed a change in direction after "Own the Night" dropped in 2011. The material was overly geared towards taking dead aim at the radio jugular and not the best material. That isn't the case this time out on the trio's fifth release because most of the songs veer away from being obviously radio fodder (except for the current singleDowntown with its soulful beginning and strong vocals from Hillary Scott), but that also doesn't man that this was the right change.
Downtown is followed by the uptempo, more rocking and catchy Better Off Now (That You're Gone) with the more soulful Charles Kelley on vocals, reminding us of the Fleetwood Mac influence on country pop. In fact, one would be very hard pressed to find much that is overtly country in the music, or instrumentation (unless considering the lead-off Tom Petty-esque Get to Me and a bit in Long Teenage Goodbye) which doesn't stray all that far from what Lady A has done in its very successful past.
But aside from a few cuts, the overall musical affect is one of a toned-down sound both musically and vocally without relying on big sweeping vocals or music to power the songs along, the sorts of sounds that heretofore dominated Lady A's music.
And at some level, most of the dozen songs here are a bit too low key (the title track is a prime example) and not all particularly engaging either. The band said they purposefully toned down the instrumentation, but the songs are not inviting enough to mesh with the goal.
Scott and Kelley take care of all the lead vocals, sometimes trading off within the same song, harmonizing or the traditional lead and back-up roles. Both are very capable with Scott turning in a strong outing on It Ain't Pretty and Kelley on Can't Stand the Rain on songs about the pitfalls of love.
Lady A will doubtlessly get the Gold record with their latest based on past history, but that doesn't mean that this is a disc that set a personal best either.