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Little Big Town

The Reason Why – 2010 (Capitol Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Little Big Town has bounced around the country music industry through no fault of their own, but when it comes to the music, LBT moves beyond its role as the country successor to Fleetwood Mac. Similar to that touchstone, LBT has the two male, two-female line-up, including a married couple (Karen Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook). More importantly, soaring harmonies rule as evidenced from the get go on the bouncy title track.

But on their third label (Monument Nashville for their self-titled debut and the defunct Equity Music group for "The Road to Here" and "A Place to Land") in four albums, LBT is on very firm musical ground while no longer an FMac clone. The main reasons are the quality of the singing and songs. LBT benefits greatly because all four members - Fairchild, Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman and Philip Sweet all can sing. On the one hand, it can be argued that there is no focal point, but since all can handle the vocals, it works. In reality, Fairchild and Schlapman take a chunk of the leads.

Westbrook adds bite to his chugging Runaway Train. Fairchild and Schlapman (the most traditional song here, "You Can't Have Everything) tend to have the softer vocals compared to their male counterparts, but Fairchild toughens it up on Shut Up Train, the first single Little White Church and Schlapman on Why, Oh Why.

As for the quality of the 13 songs, they are definitely radio ready. The band had at least a hand in writing all of them along with co-producer Wayne Kirkpatrick (LBT also produced), except for 3. The sound is not very high on the country quotient as the guitars rock pretty strong on the melodic songs.

LBT has been forced to endure the vagaries of the music industry, and the closing Lean Into It underscores the theme of perseverance. The quartet sticks around long enough to move beyond the long shadow of Fleetwood Mac and better forge its own identity with harmony and song.