The vocal quartet are one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed acts in country music, and major awards nominations are nothing new. They've won an armload of CMA Awards in the past with two wins for Single of the Year and four for Vocal Group of the Year, but their nomination for Album of the Year is particularly momentous as it put them in the company of Chris Stapleton, Lady Antebellum, Jason Isbell and Miranda Lambert.
The group scored one of their biggest career hits with the lead single from the album, "Better Man," which is nominated for Song and Single of the Year in its own right. They've released several more singles from The Breaker and supported it with a unique residency at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, and they will hit the road in 2018 with Kacey Musgraves and Midland for The Breakers Tour in support of the project.
By the time they embark on that tour, they may be supporting a CMA Award-winning album. Read on below for all the reasons Little Big Town's The Breaker deserves to win Album of the Year in the 2017 CMA Awards.
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It Marks a Change
Little Big Town have always been apt to wander around stylistically, and The Breaker marks another shift. The group focuses on mid-tempo grooves and positive messages on the album, which drew positive reviews from critics. Shifts like that probably make the album harder to market, and that's been reflected in the marketplace, but it makes for a richer, more satisfying listening experience overall.
LBT have undertaken a wide palette of different styles for the songs on The Breaker. The lead single, "Better Man," is a sweeping, powerful ballad, while the second single, "Happy People," is a trippy feel-good track. The album's third single, "When Someone Stops Loving You," is an acoustic guitar-based waltz that moves Jimi Westbrook in front of the mic as a lead singer, and elsewhere on the album, other songs including "We Went to the Beach," "Don't Die Young, Don't Get Old" and "The Breaker" offer up just as many surprises, making The Breaker one of the artistic triumphs of the year.
Careful Production Choices
Jay Joyce is one of the top producers in Nashville, and he always makes every track he touches better than it would have been. He brings that kind of deft guidance to The Breaker in a very different way than he did Pain Killer, LBT's previous album. Joyce knows when to hip a track up, as he does with the wash of effects on "Happy People," and when to let the instruments and vocals convey the song naturally as on "Better Man." He even knows how to make a seemingly throwback track like "When Someone Stops Loving You" lean into the present with a small guitar effect that makes it just a little bit cooler. Those kinds of small, but crucial audio details are all over The Breaker, making it essential headphone listening.
Top Songwriting Talent
A quick scan of the credits for The Breaker reveals a stellar cast of top songwriters including Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose, Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird, TJ Osborne and more. Oh yeah ... and some girl named Taylor Swift wrote "Better Man." If you start with great songs from talented writers and then produce great recordings with world-class singers, you're ahead of the game.
The Vocals (Obviously!)
Little Big Town are the best vocal group in country music, and The Breaker is just more proof. The diversity of styles could very well have been too big a stretch for another artist, but LBT's vocal identity is so strong that it stamps each song as part of a whole, no matter how far away the individual pieces are from one another. As "Happy People" writer Lori McKenna tells Taste of Country, "The whole experience has been joyful, because of the way Little Big Town brought their harmonies and the way that they perform a song and make a song their own into it. It’s hard to write a song that they take that doesn’t make it seem like they were in the room writing it with you."