Little Big Town consists of Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook & Phillip Sweet. They have been together as a group since 1998. Karen and Kimberly met in college in Alabama. Jimi and Karen are married. Kimberly and Phillip are married but to other people. Each person in the group has one child.
Karen and Kimberly met at Samford University in Alabama in 1987. Their friendship forms the core of the group. They ended up in Nashville, where they were joined by Jimi and Phillip. The LBT girls are amazing! Fairchild inspired me to write hundreds of new lyrics! She became my Muse! Kimberly is famous for her curly hair and dimples. She had a cooking show called Simply Southern and wrote a book called "Oh Gussie!"
Karen Fairchild - September 28, 1969
Kimberly Schlapman - October 15, 1969
Jimi Westbrook - October 20, 1971
Phillip Sweet - March 18, 1974
I stumbled onto Little Big Town in 2013. I had been hearing "Good As Gone" & "Little White Church" at karaoke but had no knowledge of the group or how good they were. "Pontoon" hitting number one had a major impact! Suddenly, they were superstars. When I found out they were performing at the Ryman, I got my ticket.
I see ABBA in Little Big Town: 2 guys and 2 girls! A blonde and a brunette. Blonde Kimberly Schlapman sings high. Dark-haired Karen Fairchild sings low. Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet complete the 4-part harmony that makes the group special. They have 8 albums going back to 2002. They write much of their material and have lots of good songs! Jimi plays mandolin. Phillip plays guitar.
Little Big Town went from Mercury Records to Monument, where they released a self-titled album. They ended up on Capitol.
Little Big Town 2002
The Road To Here 2005
A Place To Land 2007
The Reason Why 2010
The Breaker 2017
Wayne Kirkpatrick produced 3 albums. Jay Joyce produced Tornado and Pain Killer. Tornado was number one for 5 weeks and certified gold by the RIAA. "Pontoon" won a Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.
Some of Little Big Town's album cuts are better than their singles. They impress with their relentless harmony! Not many groups have 4 lead singers! They use an assortment of instruments: guitars, bass, drums, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, dobro & steel.
LBT explores every genre: country, rock, pop, bluegrass, folk & gospel, and they put their own stamp on it. Theirs is the first music I liked since Shania, and I listed my 30 favorite songs.
1 PONTOON - This is a great song and a well-produced record. The lyrics are a set of commands. I like getting on Nashville's karaoke stages and giving my best Fairchild impersonation! I did not know what a pontoon was and had to google it. Same with a coozie. I was informed that "motorboatin" means putting your face between a woman's boobs and moving your head from side to side while making the sound of a motor boat. The song's bridge is a rap, and Fairchild inhales at the end of it. "Pontoon" was penned by Luke Laird and Natalie Hemby. The intro features Jimi's mandolin.
2 GOOD AS GONE has a video. Fairchild comes up the sidewalk to a hotel. She bursts into the room and tosses her cheater on the bed. The 4 convene on the rooftop to finish the song. The lyrics use negative words: "cold, bad, lost & cheap." "Take the next splitsville exit ramp." The outro is intense!
3 TORNADO - Fairchild changes the weather! She had to become the alpha female if Little Big Town was going to the top. This is the title track off their 5th album.
4 GIRL CRUSH - The lead song from Pain Killer! Fairchild has a crush on a girl because she has what it takes to get a man. Fairchild wants to be like her. It is not what you think although it is borderline. "Girl Crush" got Song of the Year.
5 LONELY ENOUGH - She believes in God but is angry with him for taking her love. This one grabbed me quick!
6 VAPOR is about our lust for life in a context of mortality. We are a vapor, a mist here for a moment and gone forever. I recall kissing my dad. Perhaps we have all done something like that. Photos show our parents younger than we are now. Even "now" slips away.
The song compares our brief lives to fire and paper. "Never too much and never enough!" I am reminded of Shakespeare's "The Tempest." Prospero says, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep."
7 SOBER - A song called "Sober" would normally be about sobering up. Not this one! Kimberly wants to be drunk on love!
8 THAT'S WHERE I'LL BE has geography. We visit the Arizona Plains, the Mississippi River, the land of hurricanes, the hills of Tennessee & Cisco Beach. Cisco Beach is on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. More importantly, this song is about a man's need for a woman and the extent to which he will go to be with her. Jimi sings the lead, and he must be thinking of Karen. He bridges the great divide! He has seen the lonely side and knows Karen's worth. She is salvation! I think of my own song: "A Man Needs A Woman." Without a woman, a man is only drifting, a heart without a home. Women need this kind of devotion. LBT wrote this with Wayne Kirkpatrick.
9 SHUT UP TRAIN - Fairchild sings the lead in a black & white video. The guitar sounds like The Revolver album.
10 NOVOCAINE- This was the first to grap me at youtube. They performed it at the Grand Ole Opry. "Make you numb to the pain!"
11 GOOD PEOPLE - My second favorite from Pain Killer! Kimberly got a strong one, and she delivers it in a spunky style. Good people attract good people.
12 LITTLE WHITE CHURCH - In the video, Fairchild struts out of the house, her dominatrix side showing! The others wait on the bridge. Karen has an intensity about her that makes her the leader. She cocks her eyebrow when she sings "free!" Suddenly, the 4 are on the bandstand. "No more chicken and gravy!" The groom fails to show.
13 DAY DRINKING - Country music entered a period where a lot of songs were about drinking. I quit drinking but do this song karaoke. Fairchild will not wait for happy hour. She does not wait til Friday or for the sinking sun. "Sinking, thinking & drinking" rhyme. Guilt is associated with day drinking, and Karen blames it on the workday, the heat wave & the "tick-tock" moving too slow. Fireworks remind us this is a summer song.
14 NIGHT OWL is track #11 on the Tornado album. It is a duet but features all 4 singers. The man wanders back to his woman, and we journey with him past skyways and steeples, county lines and water towers, rolling fields and pastures. It turns darker, and stars begin to fall. His night owl waits, praying for his bright headlights. This is a pretty song, and Kimberly has a beautiful voice. Background vocals are a hooting owl.
15 YOUR SIDE OF THE BED is a duet. There are 3 things on Jimi's side of the bed: a picture of their wedding day, a clock that don't work and & Bible that his daddy gave. The picture and the clock tell us this relationship is stuck in the past. There are 2 things on Karen's side: a burned down candle flame (symbolizing burned out love) and a letter Jimi started and couldn't finish. Their marriage is in trouble, no surprise since country music is about divorce. The song is full of questions. "How'd you get so far away? Aren't you even gonna make a sound? Are you lonely like I'm lonely? Are you still awake?" The couple no longer communicate, and he lies down quietly without reaching.
16 WOUNDED - LBT is a hard working band! It seems every day I find something new on youtube. Dominant Karen and submissive Kimberly are music's most dynamic one-two punch since Swedish Agnetha and Norwegian Frida. "Battered and broken and bruised, tore up inside over you." Kimberly has a traditional country voice. Karen's is tougher. They complement one another.
17 SELF MADE is about survival. "Who you are is who you trust" is easy to identify with. We call ourselves survivors, although none of us are. Nothing comes easy in Nashville, and I need to come through even when I am down. Karen said the harmony is the real lead singer.
18 FINE LINE has lots of Cs: "Completely complacent," "You consume," "I get crumbs," & "Comfortably normal." The opening track from A Place To Land.
19 BOONDOCKS - Country themes! They really did grow up in the sticks. They sing of gravel roads, tin roofs, creeks, trucks, tractors, pastures, cows, deer, possums, queen bees, crickets & the moon and stars.
20 MEAN STREAK - Although Fairchild gets the hits, Schlapman has her share of good songs. Little Big Town albums run deep, and "Mean Streak" is an interesting cut from The Road to Here. I wonder why this woman stays with this man. Maybe it is because women love guys who abuse them as long as it does not get out of hand. Women enjoy playing the victim! Kimberly looks and sounds like Dolly Parton and names her as an influence. "Mean Streak" has haunting harmony. The dude is cold as concrete, tough as a back street, rough as a dry creek, hard as an oak tree, mad as a queen bee & hot as Mojave. How does she put up with him?
21 BONES - It starts with "What goes around, comes around," and I hear my uncle James. There is finger pointing. A technique they use at the end of certain songs is to return to the opening lines. "Bones" is different from what Little Big Town normally does. There is a gothic flavor, something like we might find in New Orleans. Ghosts and demons! Sins and a wicked moon! Someone is getting what he deserves. Reason gives way to superstition.
22 BETTER MAN - Taylor Swift wrote it, and it got Song of the Year. Taylor shares her feelings when she writes of permanent damage, her pride & standing in the mirror at 4am. Our true selves come out in our lyrics.
23 LEAVING IN YOUR EYES - Its lyrics are mysterious, but it has a nice atmosphere, especially when Jimi sings, "No sign of life or anything."
24 BRING IT ON HOME went to number 4 on the country charts. Phillip does the lead. It has The Eagles written all over it.
25 LOOKING FOR A REASON has Karen in the lead. She is Little Big Town's power singer and the one who had to step up if they were going to experience the meteoric rise following Tornado. Karen divorced her first husband to marry Jimi. "Looking For A Reason" says it all. This lady takes no crap! Country music is in its dominatrix era, and Fairchild fits. She demands: "You better do it now!"
26 SOMEWHERE FAR AWAY is a "leaving song." She is leaving Abilene on her way to New Orleans, too tired to get a job. The musical interlude is unearthly.
27 THE REASON WHY is the title track on the 4th album. It is an upbeat love song, and Jimi and Karen sang it on The Late Late Show.
28 WELCOME TO THE FAMILY introduces nightmare in-laws. Grandpa's the local sheriff. Uncle Bill's the undertaker. Cousin Jesse's just crazy. Momma's got a real bad temper, and daddy's got a shotgun!
29 FRONT PORCH THING - Front porches are still important to country people. "Strumming on my old 6 string!"
30 A THOUSAND YEARS has the most eerie harmony I ever heard. "Whatever the future holds, forever in your eyes."
Little Big Town has done covers. They call it "Scattered, Smothered & Covered." "Grenade" and "Rolling In The Deep" are the best. They turned Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" into a monster! When Jimi screams, "If you don't love me now, you will never love me again!" chills run through me! I saw LBT and wanted to see them again. They rose up with the Tornado album! Part of the problem had been packaging. Titles on the CDs were in fine print.
Little Big Town gets compared to Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. They are better. Great harmony and gorgeous women!
LBT is a reservoir of talent, and relationships are at the heart of their catalog. The songs are melodic, filled with emotion!
If ABBA were a country group, they would be LBT. The blonde and the brunette! Phillip could pass for Benny Andersson's twin.
I saw Little Big Town at the Ryman, April 30, 2013. They lined up: Jimi, Kimberly, Karen & Phillip. They filled the auditorium with harmony, using only 3 musicians: guitar, bass & drums. The drums provided a beat, while the 4 prowled the stage. Kimberly was devastating in her tight pants and high heels, and I noticed the way Karen's hair crossed over her right eye. The crowd stood on its feet during "Pontoon," "Tornado" & "Boondocks." Karen wore her hat. Kimberly wore her shades.
Little White Church
On Fire Tonight
Front Porch Thing
Your Side Of The Bed
Leaving In Your Eyes
Can't Go Back
Shut Up Train
I'm With The Band
Good As Gone
At the end, they bowed in ABBA fashion. It was my first show at the Ryman since coming down from Louisville with my parents in 1961.
I saw Little Big Town again on February 1, 2014, when they opened for Keith Urban at Bridgestone Arena. It was basically the Tornado album, although they started with "Little White Church" and ended with "Boondocks." Fairchild talked about how they used to play 3rd & Lindsley. Kimberly teased the crowd about "motorboatin."
The third time I saw them was at the Palace Theater on 4th Street in Louisville. This was March 13, 2015, and the street had changed since I saw movies there as a teenager. Anyway, it was a great concert! I had a good seat, and there was not a boring moment! Chills and goose bumps! LBT's confidence soared on the heels of Painkiller.