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 man and wife. 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 awesome! 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 cook 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" in karaoke bars 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 appearing at the Ryman, I got my ticket.
I see ABBA in Little Big Town! 2 guys, 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 dating back to 2002. They write much of their own 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 incorporates 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 50 songs in order from my favorite to my least favorite.
1 PONTOON - This is a great song and a well-produced record. The lyrics consist of a set of commands. "Pontoon" is my second favorite song after "Dancing Queen." 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 short 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 emphasize negative words: "cold, bad, lost & cheap." Other LBT songs end with the word "gone." "Take the next splitsville exit ramp." The outro is intense!
3 TORNADO - Fairchild really changes the weather! She had to become the alpha female if Little Big Town was going to the top. This is the title track of 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 this man. Fairchild wants to be like her. It is not what you think although it is probably 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 the 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. And even "now" slips into eternity.
Little Big Town 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 die 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 does the lead, and he must be thinking of Karen. He does what it takes to bridge the great divide! He has seen the lonely side and knows Karen's worth. She is salvation! It makes me think of my own song, "A Man Needs A Woman." Without a woman, a man is only drifting, a heart without a home. Women want and need this kind of devotion. LBT wrote this with Wayne Kirkpatrick.
9 SHUT UP TRAIN - Fairchild sings the lead in a black & white video.
10 NOVOCAINE- This was the first to rope me in 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. It is the law of attraction. 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. Watch her eyebrow cock 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 hit a period where almost every song was about drinking. LBT had theirs. I quit drinking but do it karaoke. Fairchild will not wait for a happy hour. She does not want to wait til Friday or for the sinking sun. "Sinking, thinking & drinking" are standard rhymes. Guilt is associated with day drinking because Karen blames it on the workday, the heat wave & the "tick-tock" moving too slow. This is a summer song as its fireworks remind us.
14 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.
15 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.
16 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.
17 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.
18 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.
19 FASTER GUN - Captivating harmony! Her love is a wild west movie, and he hopes she finds a faster gun. Gun imagery: "another bullet in the chamber," "trigger," "the hammer drops, "draw quickly," "aim is deadly," "cold steel," "gunpowder kiss," & "shoot you down."
20 QUIT BREAKING UP WITH ME - "You say it's over with middle finger" and "shit shit shit" would never have popped up in an old country song or even on an early LBT album. Pain Killer had to be aggressive for LBT to compete. The song starts and ends with 7 "forevers."
21 A PLACE TO LAND is catchy with that tempo I like. Kimberly does the vocal. There is something intriguing about being in over our heads, drawing lines and crossing them & speeding up when we should slow down, Is it part of being a songwriter?
22 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?
23 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.
24 STAY ALL NIGHT - A duet between Jimi and Phillip. Phillip sets it up, and Jimi explodes! It is a thing of wanting good times to last! They sing about themselves.
25 TURN THE LIGHTS ON - Lift your hands up! This song has healing qualities! The long intro builds anticipation, and LBT cuts loose. Guitarist Johnny Duke brings a lot to this music.
26 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.
27 TUMBLE AND FALL - Written by Karen, Kimberly & Lori McKenna, this formulaic lyric is what it is: a long talk, a white flag & a forfeit of the game.
28 LEAVING IN YOUR EYES - Its lyrics are mysterious, but it has a nice atmosphere, especially when Jimi sings, "No sign of life or anything."
29 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!"
30 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.
31 PAIN KILLER - From the second album with producer Jay Joyce. The albums with Joyce made Little Big Town superstars, and they joined the Grand Ole Opry. Fairchild says her man is her pain killer. She does not need whiskey, pills, therapy or a nurse.
32 YOU CAN'T HAVE EVERYTHING sets a perfect country scene: wildflowers, a willow tree & a driveway leading to a dream house. The only thing missing is love. Kimberly sings this traditional tear jerker. A marriage is in trouble when lonely halls weep.
33 STILL - The perfect love song!
34 BRING IT ON HOME went to number 4 on the country charts. Phillip does the lead. It has The Eagles written all over it.
35 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.
36 FRONT PORCH THING - Front porches are still important to country people. "Strumming on my old 6 string!"
37 FINE LINE has lots of Cs: "Completely complacent," "You consume," "I get crumbs," & "Comfortably normal." The opening track from A Place To Land.
38 A THOUSAND YEARS has the most eerie harmony I ever heard. "Whatever the future holds, forever in your eyes."
39 ON FIRE TONIGHT is a party song, a history makin' party!
40 A LITTLE MORE YOU - Come on, baby! Love is water. Dive on in! She has given a little bit, but he wants more.
41 RUNAWAY TRAIN is about a guy who runs off to Las Vegas with a preacher's daughter. After gambling his money away, he and his runaway baby return home. The preacher cusses his soul in the name of the Lord.
42 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!
43 EVERYTHING CHANGES - "Everything Changes" is a single from their first CD. I never heard of them back them. The song is self-explanatory. Time flies, and love slips away. It is sad how pictures of people outlast people. In the video, they frolic on a beach. The sand and waves symbolize change. The girls are young and pretty.
44 PAVEMENT ENDS is the first track on the Tornado album. Jimi wanted it that way. They opened their concert at the Ryman with it.
45 FIREBIRD FLY - A waitress steals a guy's car when he goes in to pay for gas. Male-bashing has been a theme in modern country music, and the LBT girls get their licks.
46 I'M WITH THE BAND - They go to Memphis and New Orleans.
47 GOOD LORD WILLING - From making mischief on Chigger Hill and cuddling up with Audra Mae, Jimi runs from flashing blue lights and a red-faced boy friend.
48 DON'T WASTE MY TIME is an early video. Kimberly has long hair. Phillip looks like a kid. These people are tight. Playing for keeps. Nashville's ABBA!
49 PONTIAC - "Lies as big as a Pontiac, no more hanging on to what will never be."
50 CAN'T GO BACK is about living in the moment and the difficulty of doing so.
Little Big Town has done covers. They call it "Scattered, Smothered & Covered." "Grenade" and "Rolling In The Deep" are the best. They turned "The Chain" into a monster! Fleetwood Mac's version is timid by comparison. When Jimi screamed, "If you don't love me now, you will never love me again!" chills ran through me! I saw LBT and wanted to see them again. They rose up with the Tornado album! Part of the problem had been the packaging. Titles on their CDs were hard to read.
Little Big Town gets compared to The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. They are better than those groups. Great harmony and gorgeous women!
They are a reservoir of talent, and relationships are at the heart of their catalog. Their 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. She and Jimi did "Your Side Of The Bed." 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 LBT 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.