Little Big Town
The Road to Here
2005
A-



little Big Town’s “Boondocks” is one of the slow-burn success stories of the past year, taking 33 weeks to crack the country singles top 10. It’s not surprising, considering not only are they a new act (well, kinda—I’ll get to that), but their sound isn’t quite like anyone else’s on “hot country” radio. “Boondocks” isn’t, as I first feared, another in 2005’s string of nü-redneck anthems (cf. Jason Aldean’s “Hicktown”) piggybacking on Gretchen Wilson’s success, but an honest-to-goodness—and just plain honest—ode to small towns. If you will, it’s not so far from being a country(ish) take on John Mellencamp’s “Small Town.” (You’d better believe that a lion’s share of country fans love JCM, and especially “Small Town.”)

(A brief interjection for the LBT back-story: the distaff quartet was signed to a major and released their debut album in 2002. It flopped badly, and their label, ironically enough Monument Records, the Dixie Chicks’ home, subsequently dumped them. But even in country music, there are some second chances; Clint Black’s Equity Music Group [in which the artists have…] picked ‘em up and put out The Road to Here last year.)

“Boondocks” is a great single with which to launch this album, as it tidily encapsulates plenty of what makes LBT so good. They’re kinda like a (much) rootsier Fleetwood Mac by way of the Dixie Chicks, all fiddles and banjos and four-part harmonies set to make you swoon. Union Station’s Jerry Douglas and Ron Block add dobro and banjo, respectively, to a number of the album’s songs.

“Bones” is nearly a dead ringer for the Mac’s own “The Chain” both lyrically and musically. It’s nearly as good, too. Each member of the quartet gets a chance to shine vocally, but they sound the most complete when singing in four-part harmony: sweet ballad “Bring It On Home” would be a crappy sheDaisy single in lesser hands, but these are the opposite of lesser hands, so it succeeds quite nicely.

All but a song or two on The Road to Here, in fact, works; had I heard this album earlier, it would have had a shot at my 2005 top 10 (and definitely would’ve placed in my top 20). Fulfilling the promises made on their debut, Little Big Town show and prove it here—this foursome could quite rightly be one of 2006’s big “new” success stories. Better climb aboard the bandwagon now, before it gets too crowded.


Reviewed by: Thomas Inskeep
Reviewed on: 2006-02-09
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