January 15, 2020 Little Big Town – Nightfall (Album Review)
Almost three years to the date of their last release, the Grammy Award-winning Nashville sweethearts in Little Big Town return with Nightfall. Capitol Nashville deliver the thoughtfully nuanced collection on Friday, January 17th, 2020.
Life is not all pontoon boats and day-drinking for the members of the Country quartet Little Big Town, who achieved massive crossover success with 2015’s “Girl Crush.” Coming together in the late ‘90s, the group released their self-titled debut in 2002 and have since gone on to deliver six additional albums, such as 2005’s The Road to Here, 2012’s Tornado, and 2017’s The Breaker. Number 1 singles, endless accolades—including multiple Grammy Awards—and an induction into the Grand Ole Opry have followed, making Little Big Town a beloved staple on the Country scene thanks to their exceptional harmonies, heartfelt lyrics, and cross-genre appeal.
It is no surprise that their latest full-length, Nightfall, is chock full of the group’s signature songbird harmonies, sincere explorations of love and loss, and all the minute details that make Little Big Town—Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet, and Jimi Westbrook—masters of their craft. While there were definitely stars in their eyes on The Breaker, the 13-song Nightfall whole-heartedly embraces the curtain of night to explore a galaxy of hope and doubt, joy and rage, romance and resolution.
Nightfall opens to dreamy soft guitar and vocals that meld to formulate the love song “Next To You.” Our connections with one another heal, and when you find the person that makes life better just by being near, you’ve experienced the sensation that the quartet are celebrating in this beautifully crafted opener. Next, apropos of its title, the glittering sweetness of album namesake “Nightfall” opens with some funky bass that builds to a twinkling atmosphere that sets a delicate beat, perfect for stargazing with a special someone.
What follows is a blend of the best moments of love and some of the worst emotional punches of loss, and its kicked off by the piano-led, raw ballad “Forever And A Night,” whose Gospel choir-tinged feels exude a lushly triumphant soulfulness in the name of an intense romance. The flipside of this is “Throw Your Love Away,” a slow dance to the bittersweet reminiscences of a break-up. But quietly taking pictures off the wall and filing memories away inside your heart ultimately turns toward a different way of coping and a stronger self who is “Over Drinking.” No longer drowning your sorrows in beer and bourbon, the swaying lull of the track belies a firm personal triumph (“I’m over drinking, over you”).
Then it’s party time! They get sassy for the salsa-flavored inferno “Wine, Beer, Whiskey,” a sultry alcoholic escapade. Here Little Big Town takes the time to namecheck some of their best friends, from Jose Cuervo to Jim Beam. When they eventually leave the bar, sleep eludes Fairchild as her mind races with post-breakup “Questions” and doubts. Those hauntingly bittersweet thoughts that we all ask ourselves, but will never voice aloud, fill the air with longing.
This sets the stage for the album’s showstopper, “The Daughters.” Acoustic guitar shines bright like diamonds as Fairchild and Schlapman harmonize on a stunning tribute to all the women who are searching for their place in this life. It’s a far more subtle offering than, say, Martina McBride’s smash hit “This One’s For the Girls,” and yet this is just as empowering an anthem for women who are seeking more for themselves and their daughters in 2020.
They follow this obvious choice for the album’s first single/video with another radio-ready track, the lushly layered dreamscape “River Of Stars.” Then, acoustic, piano, and Fairchild’s burgundy vocals open into third single/video “Sugar Coat,” a stoic look at self awareness and the lies we (particularly women) tell ourselves as we battle societal expectations. A sweeping, cinematic moment packed with empowerment and truth reckoning, next the perfect arrangement of these tracks leads us to “Problem Child.” An anthem for the black sheep, “Problem Child” is a piano ballad for those that feel alone in a crowded room, a promise that no matter how it might feel, child, you are not the only one.
To lighten the mood, a folksy, Jame Taylor-esque offering entitled “Bluebird” glances out the window, promising a sunny sway before they close out Nightfall with a (subtle) bang. Apropos of the album’s final track, the magical quartet explore the idea that the “Trouble With Forever” is that it always ends. A heartbreaking side of love, and a reminder that, more often than not, nothing gold can stay, the quartet’s delicious harmonies backed by acoustics lull the soul as they go weave this emotional grand finale.
Maybe it will sound cliche, but Nightfall summons all the magic of the night as it dances beneath the twinkling stars. Poignant and raw, each of the thirteen tracks explores a different facet of being human, creating a collection with powerful individual components that grow even stronger as their entire story elapses. In this, we love profoundly, we wear our hearts on our tattered sleeves, and we bleed all in the span of one record. Vulnerable and complex, Nightfall allows Little Big Town to frolic in both tragedy and triumph.
Like all great music, Nightfall provides carefully nuanced moments of self-reflection, awareness and consciousness, solace and redemption. Even in its darkest shadows there is a bountiful hope, an ultimate promise that every starry night brings with it a new and brighter tomorrow. For this, Cryptic Rock give Little Big Town’s latest 5 of 5 stars.