First off, can we talk about how cool the Pain Killer album cover is? Love it.
It took 5 albums, but Little Big Town finally got it right with 2012’s Tornado. They showed major potential on various tracks on their previous collections, but they finally made it all click on that album and the industry (and public) took notice with awards and major sales. Now, they have to follow up that blockbuster album, and don’t worry, they haven’t taken a major step backwards.
Pain Killer isn’t as good as Tornado, but on several tracks, it has the group delightfully taking major chances. The first single, “Day Drinking”, was one of the best songs of the summer with its ambitious marching band sound. That fantastic track is in the #2 slot on the album, but the songs around it (“Quit Breaking Up With Me”, “Tumble And Fall”, “Pain Killer”) will fail to excite.
It’s not until track 5, “Girl Crush”, that you’ll be jolted to attention with Karen Fairchild singing the opening line, “I got a girl crush, Hate to admit it”…what? But like their previous hit “Sober”, it’s not exactly what you think (it’s more about being jealous that a girl has a certain guy). With a simple guitar melody that sounds like “Unchained Melody”, it’s a bare bones song that is one of the best country songs of the year.
Things to take a complete about turn with “Faster Gun”, which sounds like a Black Keys track. Seriously. It’s a rockin’ slow jam. The tempo picks up on “Good People”, but the rock influences remain for the Sheryl Crow-esque track. So in 3 tracks, the quartet have created sounds that evoke The Righteous Brothers, The Black Keys, and Sheryl Crow. That’s a pretty insane range.
The band continues down the blistering hard-edged country sound on “Stay All Night” and “Save Your Sin”. They showcase their beautiful harmonies on the decent “Live Forever”. It doesn’t hit the highs of say “Night Owl” or “To Know Love”, but any chance to hear these 4 harmonize is worth it. Surprisingly, it’s the balls-out rock tracks (really, the sound is barely country) that work the best on Pain Killer, like “Things You Don’t Think About” and “Turn The Lights On”, a song with more edge than most rock bands would even imagine recording.
Pain Killer isn’t a flawless album like Tornado, but the highs are crazy good on Pain Killer. It’s exciting to hear a country band like this willing to take risks and having so much fun doing it.