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tornadoReleased: 2012

Who said country music wasn’t for young people? Alabama-based country quartet Little Big Town have proved with the release of album number five, Tornado, that country music can very much be a young man’s game.

Featuring the dual vocal stylings of male and female duets like their fellow modern country pioneers Lady Antebellum, the band have served up a sweet slice of Americana, oozing with southern charm and heartfelt harmonies.

Formed in 1998, the band have been honing their craft on the road for fourteen years now, but still sound as fresh as they did from day one. The lead-off single Pontoon is very much reflective of the whole album. Chilled but visceral, and packed full of hummable melodies, the song has the taste of success about it, and marks their first number one charting single on the Billboard Country Songs chart.

Your Side of the Bed is the album’s lighter in the air, power ballad moment and is delivered with gut-wrenching soul. Front Porch Thing is probably one of the finest achievements in songwriting the band have accomplished, conjuring up the classic country sound of mandolins and dobros, but updated for a modern audience with one of the catchiest hooks you’re likely to hear this year. On Fire Tonight is the album’s grooviest tune: if it doesn’t have you yearning for a Stetson hat and plaid shirts then this album isn’t for you!

Where Little Big Town really succeed however is in their vocal delivery. Not satisfied with simply interchanging between the two distinct vocal styles, they are instead used for fine textual backing, harnessing the power of the voice as an instrument in its own right, used to no finer effect than on Leavin’ in your Eyes.

The stand-out song of the album is the title track Tornado, which comes across like the offspring between KT Tunstall and Johnny Cash while being allowed outside to play with Train’s latest album California 37.

The comparisons with Lady Antebellum are perhaps inevitable, but Little Big Town carry off the vintage vibe with more panache. Both bands are pioneering the new wave of modern country, one which should open up the genre to a whole new generation, an achievement which cannot be understated when so many older genres of music are dying on their feet. Tornado is unquestionably a superb album, and whether they become more than a cult band outside of their native country remains to be seen, but what is for sure is that this album will capture your heart like no country album has done in the last decade.

★★★★★

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