Lady Antebellum’s Number 1 single “Need You Now” is pure country-pop awesomeness from the opening and closing piano, rousing guitar solo and all those haunting vocals in between. It’s just the right track to open the new CD, also called “Need You Now,” itself a tasty blend of country and pop, duets and solos, that is sure to satisfy new and old Lady A fans.
Alternating verses between Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley – a Lady A trademark – work perfectly on the single “Need You Now,” but on the rest of the CD, I think the best songs are those where one or the other takes lead vocals.
For example, on “American Honey,” the latest single, Hillary Scott’s voice is as sweet as the song’s title. It’s also the most traditional country-sounding song on the CD, featuring a lovely mandolin and fiddle combination, great bass and a touch of pedal steel guitar. It nicely balances the first single’s pop sound. “Ready to Love Again,” another Hillary lead, reminds me of something Reba might have recorded back when she had that big hair in the early ’90s, perhaps with Linda Davis (who just happens to be Hillary’s mother).
Charles Kelley gets his chance to take center stage on “If I Knew Then.” His voice is so full of regret and pain, it’s almost heartbreaking to hear, but in a good way, of course. And “Hello World,” my personal favorite, is a sweet song about counting your blessings that avoids clichés and ends with a big finish that gives me chills every time I listen. When he sings “All the empty disappears. I remember why I’m here. Just surrender and believe. I fall down on my knees. Hello world,” the grace and sincerity he conveys with that amazing voice takes my breath away. Musically and vocally, it’s just beautiful.
Another standout is “Something ‘Bout a Woman,” another Charles lead vocal highlighted by great piano and a Memphis blues feel that I just loved.
Of the CD’s other duets, “When You Got a Good Thing” is the best, although a bit odd. It’s surprisingly morose for a song about be finding the right person. I just don’t quite understand why they sound so sad when they’re singing about being happy!
The rest of the CD is fine but it’s easy to skip over to get to the better tracks. “Perfect Day” is a toe-tapper but has way too many country music clichés (musically and lyrically). “Stars Tonight” has a Rascal Flatts’ “Summer Nights” feel that will be a hit on this summer’s tour but is unsubstantial. “Love This Pain” isn’t quite pop, isn’t quite country, and doesn’t quite work for me. And “Our Kind of Love” is just not memorable.
But when a CD with this many great songs, you can certainly excuse a little filler.
“Need You Now” will be released Tuesday. Expect to see it at the top of the country charts the next week, and probably on the top of the pop charts as well. It has plenty to satisfy both audiences.