It's anybody's guess why Little Big Town's three fine singles from 2007's excellent A Place to Land failed to crack the Top 30, or why the album didn't build upon the platinum success of its predecessor, The Road to Here. That said, the bluesy roil in "Little White Church," the pre-release single from The Reason Why, LBT's fourth studio album, proves that failure was a fluke. The trademark four-part harmony that separate them from the rest of the contemporary country pack isn't the only thing: their group songwriting -- with producer and guitarist Wayne Kirkpatrick as a fifth member -- is classy, sophisticated, and doesn't rely on genre clichés.
Contemporary country music is hardly a meritocracy, but the fact that Little Big Town has yet to earn the commercial profile that their talent and critical clout deserve is a real head-scratcher. They’ve generally made wise choices for their singles, and their albums consistently boast greater depth than those of Rascal Flatts, Sugarland, or Lady Antebellum. Whether or not their fourth album, The Reason Why, reverses that trend, it stands as the quartet’s most consistent set to date, and it’s one of the better albums in what has been a lackluster year for country.
The most omnipresent group in country, maybe even commercial pop, music right now might be the male-female-male vocal trio Lady Antebellum. Waiting in the wings this summer to steal the stage back is the female-male duo Sugarland, formerly a female-male-female trio (they’re battling that departure out in court), with a new album out soon. Touring this year, after getting attention for their 2009 debut album, is the youthful foursome Gloriana, two women and two men who all sing together.