Album Reviews | Little Big Town – Pain Killer (2014)

PlatinumI really have been finding a lot of country music to like lately, and Pain Killer by Little Big Town is just the latest example. After guesting on the best song (“Smokin’ and Drinkin'”) on Miranda Lambert‘s Platinum earlier in 2014, Little Big Town has unleashed an album that is a pretty strong contender for best country album of the year. Certainly, some of its songs best anything else that came out of Nashville, and at least one (“Tumble and Fall”) is one of my very favorite songs of 2014, period. But I love what else is here: “Day Drinking” is great and is easily the catchiest song on the record (I get it stuck in my head from time to time), “Faster Gun” combines great studiocraft with a knockout chorus, and “Turn the Lights On” is a stunner, combining a killer fingerpicked intro with the insistence of a stomping rhythm and an almost hard rock sensibility.

Eagles - Hotel California (Reduced)Throughout the record are four-part harmonies courtesy of the band members, who all sing and take turns with lead vocals. Often, they come across as a Nashville version of the Eagles, as if they took what that band was and turned everything inside out. (The Eagles were a rock band at root but displayed copious country and western flourishes, while Little Big Town is fundamentally a country act that has the ability to rock out.) Little Big Town even has the identical flaw the Eagles had in the early part of their career, too, which is that they split the lead vocal duties too evenly. The Eagles didn’t become superstars until Don Henley became the dominant vocalist and their identity solidified on the Hotel California album. (The bestselling album of all time in the US, the EaglesTheir Greatest Hits 1971-1975, only contains songs sung by Henley and Glenn Frey, and to this day the two retain control of the band.)

Judging by what is on Pain Killer, there is a lot of potential for Little Big Town to achieve massive crossover success, either during this album cycle or the next. But as brightly as this album shines, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this could have been distilled into something even better — the best songs outclass the weakest ones in a way that leaves me wanting a little more. And perhaps this could be addressed in the future by deciding on one or two vocalists to carry most of the load and forge a more complete identity. We’ll just have to wait and see how the group develops, but in the meantime, Pain Killer is a really solid album to chew on again and again.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>