Album Review

Little Big Town, 'The Reason Why'

August 23, 2010

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Great bands get to know themselves through the years and fine-tune what works for each release. Little Big Town has been paying attention. The country rock quartet outdoes itself on its fourth album by tapping in to its strengths — spine-tingling harmonies, offbeat arrangements, the melding of the classic and contemporary — and only occasionally indulging in shiny, airless Nashville production customs. That room for breathing is key to the success of the album’s best cuts, of which there are many. The simple, straightforward acoustic ballad “Shut Up Train’’ is an audible sigh of sleeplessness and melancholy. A happier breeze blows through the California-kissed title track. “Little White Church’’ is a funny little ultimatum and “Runaway Train’’ tells the shopworn tale of two crazy kids on an ill-advised bender with fresh zip. “You Can’t Have Everything,’’ a bona fide country song, neatly encapsulates the heartache of having a picture perfect life with a hole in the center where the love’s supposed to go. With the assistance of ace songwriter-producer-multi-instrumentalist Wayne Kirkpatrick “The Reason Why’’ does what all good records should do: It makes you laugh, cry, hoot, holler, and breaks your heart. (Out tomorrow) SARAH RODMAN

ESSENTIAL “Shut Up Train’’