After trekking from North Carolina, a humble construction worker contacts his middle school friend from Georgia to meet an up-and-coming darling in a local Nashville bar, before the real action begins. That was only 2007, and we now have two hit singles from Lady Antebellum – whom are Hilary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood – without any kind of American Idol contract to boost them over acts like Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift.
I have always been one to shun the lack of originality in a country scene dominated by purely pop crossovers (ala Shania Twain). It might be too soon to speak for this particular act, but as it currently stands, one can admire Lady Antebellum for a few things.
As you pass through the first track on their eponymous debut – the first single, “Love Don’t Live Here” – you see exactly what this genre has been lacking with a song titled, “Just Lookin’ For A Good Time”. Lyrics tell the tale of something that has become both taboo and commonplace in the world of today’s blogger and barhopper…a one night stand.
Normally, the only side of such a topic gets told in some demeaning light, whereas in this story, you see a logical adult situation that is more a case of life imitating art than your average ‘country love ballad’. As we mention ‘love ballad’, you get the next song, “All We’d Ever Need”, where we get a perfectly played-out duet that could be compared to the likes of Faith Hill and Tim McGraw without the unneeded press coverage or over-dramatized vocals.
“Long Gone” brings our female performer Scottto the fore-front Sugarland style, but sounding less nasal and more invigorated, though this spectacular crooning is almost neglected being set next to “I Run To You” – your stereotypical pop-country duet that lacks Lady Antebellum’s signature stand-out feel. They are indeed luckily redeemed with “Love’s Lookin’ Good On You”, however – an upbeat country jam that pops like a fire cracker with spontaneity.
As we go further down the line, “Home Is Where The Heart Is” appears to be quite the throwaway, while “Things People Say” is classic country with passionate melancholy seeping through, and “Slow Down Sister” is swinging and adds a slight alternative rock tinge with it’s crackled radio intro and it’s 90s feel (albeit seemingly inspired by Billy Ray Cyrus).
“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” is absolutely the best song on Lady Antebellum, with a distinctly emotional, yet not too trite sound, as you sense the ghost of Lorrie Morgan in the background.
As always, we’re left with our all-important closer.
I want to state quickly why I put so much emphasis on a ‘closer’ in this particular piece. In every good album, three things always make me smile – a proper balance of lyrics and music in each song, the arrangement of tracks themselves to showcase better material while complimenting the less penetrating orchestrations, and (especially with debut or concept albums) a fitting set of bookend songs.
Bookends both set and demolish the overall tone of a record, just as say – the designing of credits in a really good film (i.e., the opening sequence of The Dark Knight or Spiderman). In the case of a debut album, it sets the stage for both an outstanding performance in studio, and lets the whole world know about your personality/personalities.
Here we see your typical opening songs being their first two singles, but as we hit the closing piece titled “One Day You Will”, we see a truly positive song that – unlike most country tunes in optimistic fashion – does not come off preachy or overly epic. It shows the world that they want to be a thriving force in their respective musical category, as well as in pop radio, without wanting to be just another one hit wonder.
It should be noted that two of the three members of Lady are closely related to other performers – Kelley, the brother of pop artist Josh Kelley, and Scott the daughter of 90s country singer Linda Davis. Don’t be fooled by this supposed Brian Wilson formula of fame – they hold their own nicely.
Lady Antebellum is for those of you who have tired of Sugarland or Taylor Swift’s dominating presence due to some misplace notion that we can all be ‘good little boys and girls’. You want a group who dares to defy traditional country stigma? Three are highly recommended – Dixie Chicks, Nickel Creek, and Lady Antebellum.