Little Big Town's 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks

From left: Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town photographed March 15 at Printers Alley in Nashville.
David McClister

From left: Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town photographed March 15 at Printers Alley in Nashville. 

Little Big Town has been making music together for almost two decades now, forming in 1998. At first, it looked like the group would never catch commercial flight, with contracts with both Mercury and Monument failing to yield any hits, but a move to Equity Music Group (of which Clint Black was a partner) helped them gain an audience for their sound in 2005. Then, when Capitol acquired their contract a couple of years later, it appeared that their career would hit the fast lane. It took a few years for that to happen, but a 2012 single about a boat ride (That was what "Pontoon" was about, right?) put them in the fast lane for good, leading to several million-selling albums and singles, as well as award recognition from every trade organization possible.

In choosing ten of the best Little Big Town song performances, we chose nine of their biggest hit moments -- along with one album cut that is simply too good to ignore. If you love performances that are a mixture of evocative emotion or fun frivolity, chances are there is at least one of these performances that will break your heart -- or make you smile just a little big brighter!

Best Songs: Alabama | Alan Jackson | Blake Shelton | Brad Paisley | Carrie Underwood | Chris Stapleton | Conway Twitty | Darius Rucker | Dierks Bentley | Dixie Chicks | Dolly Parton | Eric Church | Garth Brooks | George Jones | George Strait | Jason Aldean | Johnny Cash | John Denver | Keith Urban | Kenny Chesney | Kenny Rogers | Lady Antebellum | Merle Haggard | Miranda Lambert | Patsy Cline | Randy Travis | Rascal Flatts | Reba McEntire | Sam Hunt | Shania Twain | Thomas Rhett | Tim McGraw | Toby Keith | Waylon Jennings | Willie Nelson | Zac Brown Band

10. Little Big Town - "Night Owl"

Since their first release in 2002, the group has had quite the history of including album cuts that are just as exquisitely written and produced as any of their singles. In 2012, the group issued Tornado -- their finest collection to date, and the set closed out with this highly effective performance that the band wrote with Natalie Hemby. The song served as a showcase for their tight harmonies. Seeing them gather around the microphone doing this track in concert with no instrumental accompaniment is perhaps the biggest treat of a Little Big Town show.

9. Little Big Town - Day Drinking

The CMA winners led off their Pain Killer album with his light and lively number about simply letting loose for no other reason than just the pure thrill of doing so. This Little Big Town song earned a much-talked about buzz after the group premiered the cut on the 2014 CMT Music Awards.

8. Little Big Town - "I'm With The Band"

The band was still a hit or miss proposition at Country Radio when this song was issued as the first single from their sophomore album A Place To Land, and this song’s No. 32 peak is more a result of that than song quality. Rather this cut about life on the highway as a member of a traveling band was one of their strongest performances -- both lyrically and vocally.

7. Little Big Town - "Better Man"

The group’s pristine harmonies made them fans both inside and outside the industry, and this song came to them from one of their fellow artists -- Taylor Swift. The superstar penned the song about a broken relationship, and immediately thought of Little Big Town, who needed little convincing of the song’ s merits. The song spent a pair of weeks atop the Country Songs chart earlier this year, and will likely be in the running in the upcoming Song and Single of the Year at this year’s CMA Awards.

6. Little Big Town - "Sober" 

The piercing melody and beautiful lyrics of this song were textbook, thanks to the craftsmanship of Liz Rose, Hillary Lindsey, and Lori McKenna, but what really made this song soar was the gorgeous vocal performance by Kimberly Schlapman, who got a rare chance to step into the solo spotlight on this gem of a cut.

5. Little Big Town - "Your Side Of The Bed "

Husband and wife Karen Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook made this ballad one to remember upon its’ release in the spring of 2013. The passionate lyrics -- about a couple who had let many walls creep in between them and their relationship -- made for one of the format’s most dramatic moments that year -- hearkening back to some of the classic soap operas in song of the Conway/Loretta and George/Tammy era.

4. Little Big Town - "Pontoon"

After fifteen years together, the band finally hit commercial paydirt with this energetic number about a party on the water. The harmonies were right on the money, and Fairchild dazzled with a charm-filled performance that put them in the winner’s circle for many awards show, including the 2012 CMA’s and the Grammy's the following winter.

3. Little Big Town - "Little White Church"

Teaming up with Wayne Kirkpatrick to pen this bouncy 2010 single, it turned into a tour de force for Fairchild to let loose with a charismatic performance about a woman laying down the law to her significant other. The group took on an exuberant slant on the song, with the hand claps on this song immediately preceding the chorus giving the track a very playful feel.

2. Little Big Town - "Boondocks"

After their first two recording contracts went nowhere, the band finally connected with radio in 2005 with this stirring declaration of southern pride. This Little Big Town song established them as an act that you could expect the unexpected from, with all four members taking turns in the lead spotlight -- a rarity for groups at that point or today. The song remains the biggest fist-pump moment at their shows today, and with good reason -- there’s a feeling of small-town pride that overcomes you when you hear it -- regardless of where you are from.

1. Little Big Town - "Girl Crush"

Once again, the band turned to the Rose / Lindsey / McKenna writing team for one of the most-talked about Country moments of 2015, topping the Country Songs chart for an incredible thirteen weeks. The true mark of this cut is that no matter how many times you may have heard it, Karen Fairchild’s lead vocal still gives you chills. When the history of the format is finally written, it will record her performance of this track about a woman who is longing for any connection to the man she desires on a par with great performances from Tammy, Loretta, Reba, or Patsy.

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.