Little Big Town have long been compared to Fleetwood Mac, usually due to their lush harmonies and taste for sun-kissed melodic pop. If that analogy holds water -- and it does -- then Pain Killer is Little Big Town's Tusk, the record where the group bends, twists, and reshapes expectations of what the band can do. Coming after the sweet, shiny Tornado, the restless over-saturation in Killer is something of a shock.
For years, Little Big Town has been implicitly living in the shadow of Lady Antebellum, country’s male-female soft-pop harmony monolith, and it suited this group fine. Its songs were often more delicate, with less bold ambition. But on “Pain Killer” (Capitol Nashville), its sixth album, it.
If 2012’s terrific “Tornado” was the breakthrough Little Big Town richly deserved — thanks to the funny, breezy hit “Pontoon” — then the even stronger “Pain Killer’’ should send the country quartet — Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman, and Phillip Sweet — to greater heights. The aptly named album is all killer, no filler. The group’s trademark four-part harmonies are front and center on 13 richly crafted tunes — ranging from whispered ballads to fiery rockers — which, like “Tornado,” were produced by the inventive Jay Joyce (Eric Church).
There's a reason Little Big Town gets compared to Fleetwood Mac, and it's not just because two of the bandmates are married to each other or that the quartet performs a spirited take on "The Chain" in concert. It's also because the coed Alabama foursome often sings about complicated matters of the heart in lush, layered harmonies. But the group's full-lengths have only sporadically risen to the level of the potential shown on 2005's breakthrough hit, "Boondocks," or 2010's "Little White Church." Little Big Town Talk Separate Guys' & Girls' Songwriting Sessions for 'Pain Killer' Until now.
“They say you are who you hang with,” Kimberly Schlapman declares on the new album by Little Big Town, and for this coed country group, that’s turned out to be a boon. Once viewed as a kind of lower-wattage version of Lady Antebellum – strummy acoustic guitars, steady soft-rock tempos, creamy male-female vocal harmonies – Little Big Town seemed on the verge of fading to bland two years ago before it hired Jay Joyce, a producer known for his work with rock acts like Cage the Elephant, to oversee its fifth studio album, “Tornado. ” Yet Joyce ended up remaking the foursome’s sound, going fuzzier and funkier, and in the process he boosted its commercial appeal: “Pontoon,” the irresistible “Tornado” single about a laid-back boat ride, topped Billboard’s country chart and won a Grammy Award.