Little Big Town surprised country fans last year when they teamed up with Pharrell Williams for Wanderlust. The experimental eight-song project saw the country quartet pushing musical boundaries and giving them a newfound sense of freedom in the studio. This experience and willingness to experiment carries over into their forthcoming country release The Breaker, due out Friday (Feb. 24).
The 12-track album was produced by frequent collaborator Jay Joyce and merges the fun with the somber for a release that continues to showcase Little Big Town’s staying power. While the first half of the album proves to be the perfect summer road trip soundtrack with feel-good beats, nostalgia and positivity, the close of the record finds the band more introspective and at times somber. All the while, the band leaves its mark as each track toys with the listener’s emotions.
The standout “Happy People” kicks off the album and immediately pulls the listener in with its slick beats and memorable lyrics. Written by Lori McKenna and Hailey Whitters, the song is as refreshing as they come as it paints the picture of a world of happy people who don’t cheat, lie or steal. Instead, they learn to lift each other up and put smiles on their faces. “Well life is short and love is rare and we all deserve to be happy while we’re here,” Karen Fairchild sings on the close of the song. A sentiment we can all get behind, once again McKenna shows her ability as a songwriter to have a pulse on songs that truly leave a mark.
The nostalgic “Free,” written by an A-list songwriting team of McKenna, Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby and Luke Laird, continues the feel-good vibe as the band vividly looks back on childhood memories. “We work so hard to have it all when all the things we want are free,” they sing. Meanwhile, songs like the soaring “Night On Our Side” and atmospheric “Lost In California” showcase Little Big Town’s impeccable harmonies and prove the perfect road trip soundtrack.
Additional highlights include the wistful “We Went to the Beach,” hauntingly beautiful “Beat Up Bible” with Kimberly Schlapman on lead, and the guitar-driven “Rollin’.” While the nostalgic and upbeat numbers showcase Little Big Town’s fun side, it is on the heart-wrenching ballads that leave the greatest mark. Their recent No. 1 Taylor Swift-penned single “Better Man” exemplifies this as does the powerful “When Someone Stops Loving You” and album closer, “The Breaker.”
On “When Someone Stops Loving You,” Jimi Westbrook’s soulful voice is at the forefront of the heartbreaking track of a man trying to move on after a relationship’s end. He finds himself struggling to let go as he hears her song on the radio and can’t seem to avoid passing her place on the way to work each morning. “When someone stops loving you / It don’t make the evening news / It don’t keep the sun from rising, the clock from winding, your heart from beating even when you want it to,” he sings.
Phillip Sweet continues the poignancy with album closer “The Breaker.” Written by TJ Osborne of Brothers Osborne and Connie Harrington, “The Breaker” is as vulnerable as Little Big Town get on the album. A unique perspective, it is a tale of a man knowing full well that he broke a woman’s heart. “I shot the stars out of your sky / Took the love right from your eyes / And I did it all knowing you thought I was the hero of your heart / But I turned out to be the breaker,” he sings.
Throughout the 12 tracks on The Breaker, the listener is taken on a journey of emotions. While some bring a smile to one’s face with nostalgia, others are more emotional with tales of heartache and hurt. All the while, Little Big Town’s ability as vocalists is showcased and the songs selected leave a lasting mark on the listener.