World, meet Little Big Town. With their fifth studio release Tornado, this four-part, previously underrated country vocal act is finally hitting their stride with a record that is certain to take them all the way to the top. Apparently, the fifth time’s a charm.
We’ve seen promise from this band for years. Despite having a clear lead vocalist to help drive the public image, Little Big Town’s harmony-driven sound has given us plenty of ear candy over the last few records—and yet, despite a measure of success with songs like “Little White Church”, they’ve consistently fallen just under the radar of the level of success many of us have felt they deserved.
Enter a new producer, Jay Joyce (Brandi Carlile, Cage the Elephant, Eric Church), and a catchy single “Pontoon,” which has turned out to be the band’s first number one hit. Suddenly, the band with promise shows signs of more than just a promise. Within the first few notes of Tornado, it’s apparent that we have a contender. By the time we get to the title track in the middle of the record—promise fulfilled.
The opening track “Pavement Ends” kicks off with an upbeat, backwoods party vibe that isn’t afraid to venture into the suggestive (“Fine pine / That’s what she said”), then dives into the more relaxed (yet still party) vibe of “Pontoon.” But don’t be fooled; this isn’t strictly a party album. While the track list has plenty of soon-to-be crowd pleasers like “Front Porch Thing” and “On Fire Tonight,” there are some serious and moving moments, as well. “Sober” is a touching ballad equating love with a drug, while “Your Side of the Bed” explores the emotional distance of waning love—and the title track “Tornado” deals with the fury of a woman scorned. One of the must-listen deeper tracks of the record: “Self Made.” Bluesy, rocky, dark and wonderful.
All told, with Tornado, Little Big Town has released a record that covers a diversity of musical and lyrical ground, filled with stick-in-your-head hooks and melodies. I’ve liked this band for awhile, but this is by far their best work to date—and I believe, the record that will take Little Big Town over the top.