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Little Big Town

Tornado

Format: CD   Release Date: 09/11/2012
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Two years after The Reason Why, Little Big Town returned in 2012 with Tornado, their fifth album and, justifiably, perhaps their poppiest yet. Capitalizing on the success of The Reason Why -- it topped the Billboard country charts and generated the gold hit single "Little White Church," a song that expertly spliced their down-home inclinations and passion for '70s SoCal soft rock -- Little Big Town open up their sound, once again emphasizing harmonies and melodies, encasing them in a sleek, gleaming production that pushes them ever closer to the mainstream. Some hints of purer country remain but they're slight -- apart from a fairly insistent celebration of backwoods living, the insistent two-step opener "Pavement Ends" and the tongue-in-cheek hoe-down of "Front Porch Thing" is pretty much all there is -- and the strange thing is, the harder country isn't really missed. Little Big Town are so savvy in how they update and countrify Fleetwood Mac that it's easy to be oblivious to the receding down-home tide within their music. Nobody has been quite so deft at re-creating the nimble soft rock of the Mac's '80s peak -- "Leavin' in Your Eyes" could ease onto Mirage with no problem -- but Little Big Town isn't stuck there, they've freshened up the breezy melodics and silken settings, giving the music a true modern stomp at times (when they aim for the arena they have anthems that can fill it) but always keeping those gorgeous harmonies at the forefront. Forget the limiting rubric of country-pop: this is one of the best mainstream pop albums of 2012. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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