Not only is Little Big Town releasing their eighth studio album The Breaker today, but this evening marks the beginning of their residency at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. They will be the first group to have a residency at the venue (their 9-show run is aptly named “Little Big Town at the Mother Church”) which will celebrate the Ryman’s 125th anniversary. Openers will include Ashley Monroe and Brent Cobb.
One of the most highly anticipated albums of early 2017, The Breaker does not disappoint. The album’s lead single, “Better Man,” is Little Big Town’s fastest-rising radio single to date, reaching No. 1 this week after just 18 weeks on the Billboard and MediaBase country airplay charts. “Better Man,” which was written by superstar Taylor Swift, has close to 500,000 digital downloads and over 35 million combined streams.
The Breaker, which was produced by Jay Joyce and recorded with their live touring band, builds on the sounds of their 2014 Painkiller album. Tracks on The Breaker include elements of soul, bluegrass, and funk, as well as their signature harmonies, and is certainly more country than their 2016 pop-infused project Wanderlust. The quartet worked with many of the industry’s most prominent songwriters on the project; collaborators include Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird, Lori McKenna, TJ Osborne, and Liz Rose to name just a few.
The album’s opener, “Happy People,” has a lighthearted sound but offers a much deeper message of positivity and acceptance. The songs that follow are woven together as a collective story, ending with the heartbreaking title track “The Breaker.” The album is a beautiful mix of positivity (“Happy People,” “Don’t Die Young, Don’t Grow Old”), nostalgia (“We Went to the Beach,” “Free”), heartbreak (“Better Man”), and gut-wrenching emotional ballads (“When Someone Stops Loving You,” “The Breaker”). Jimi Westbrook tells Rolling Stone Country, “It’s such a playlist society and it feels like no one gives a shit about making albums anymore,” he says. “You have to sequence an album and make songs feel, and hand off one to another, just like someone makes a playlist. An album is a collection of music that works together. It gives you a story that the artist is trying to tell.”
Other highlights include the deeply moving “Beat Up Bible,” featuring Kimberly Schlapman on lead vocals, and the smooth road trip-ready “Lost in California” (penned by “Girl Crush” writers Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose). The LP is sonically very diverse, pairing the group’s exquisite harmonies with bright pop production and echoing, atmospheric rock elements. The group’s versatility is impossible to ignore on The Breaker; the powerful 0-to-60 chorus of “Drivin’ Around” begs for a stadium sing-along, but is quickly followed by the softer sounds and gentle lyrics of “We Went to the Beach.” The layered songs are all-encompassing, and effectively demand attention without losing their natural, easy-listening qualities.
Karen Fairchild explains the choice of the albums title in a recent interview with TheBoot.com: “The record is called The Breaker for multiple reasons. I think there’s lots of ways that you get broken. I think there are some times you are the breaker. Sometimes it’s like looking ahead at the future and what’s on the horizon, breaking. Just so many ways it ties into the record, and for us as a band.” Thought-provoking messages and relatable experiences are highlighted throughout the album. With two Grammy Awards, 8 CMA Awards, 7 ACM Awards and three platinum albums, Little Big Town has continued their winning streak with The Breaker.
The Breaker track listing:
1. “Happy People” (Lori McKenna, Hailey Whitters)
2. “Night on Our Side” (Jay Joyce, Jeremy Spillman, Phillip Sweet, Ryan Tyndell, Jimi Westbrook)
3. “Lost in California” (Hillary Lindsey, McKenna, Liz Rose)
4. “Free” (Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird, McKenna)
5. “Drivin’ Around” (Kameron Alexander, David Embree, Audra Mae, Todd Spadafore)
6. “We Went to the Beach” (Matt Jenkins, Chase McGill, Laura Veltz)
7. “Better Man” (Taylor Swift)
8. “Rollin'” (Natalie Hemby, Sweet, Westbrook)
9. “Don’t Die Young, Don’t Get Old” (Karen Fairchild, Lindsey, McKenna, Rose, Kimberly Schlapman)
10. “Beat Up Bible” (Cary Barlowe, Lindsey, Shane Stevens)
11. “When Someone Stops Loving You” (Lindsey, McGill, McKenna)
12. “The Breaker” (Connie Harrington, TJ Osborne)
Pick up a copy of The Breaker on iTunes now.