I have been a fan of country music in one form or another for years. As a kid, it was more of the crossover stuff, like the Charlie Daniels Band’s “Devil Went Down to Georgia” or Crystal Gayle’s “Talking In Your Sleep.” As I got to college, I started venturing into the more traditional country fare, but still leaning toward the pop-sounding fare. The Judds’ Greatest Hits and Restless Heart’s Wheels were two albums that I remember having in heavy rotation in college, and it only snowballed from there. Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire and Mary Chapin Carpenter were favorites from the 90s, and I can say I have seen all of them live.
Readers of this blog know that country occasionally falls into my definition of Pop, and no country act has gotten more attention here than Lady Antebellum. While I was bit disappointed by their most recent release (Own the Night), I am still a fan and look forward to seeing their continued growth. As a result of their massive success, there are a lot of male/female vocal groups charting or attempting to chart on the Country chart. Here are three notable examples for your review.
Gloriana “(Kissed You) Good Night”
If there is one song from one group that seems to mimic the Lady Antebellum formula from “Need You Now” above all others, it has to be Gloriana’s “(Kissed You) Good Night.” One verse sung by a guy, one by a woman, and a soaring chorus where they met. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then “(Kissed You) Good Night” is a Lifetime Achievement Award for Lady A. The song has become Gloriana’s biggest hit to date as it sits at number two on the Billboard Country Songs chart with a solid shot at number one. They are also fellow Upstate New Yorkers, so I could not be happier to see them make it big.
Little Big Town “Pontoon”
Changing gears from a newer group to an established quartet, Little Big Town got off to a slow start when they first hit the charts in 2002, but their career kicked into high gear in 2005 with back-to-back top ten hits “Boondocks” and “Bring It On Home.” Their chart success has been mixed since then, but they are back in a big way with a monster hit called “Pontoon.” To my ear, “Pontoon” doesn’t sound very country, save a steel guitar buried in the mix, but whether it’s country or pop or Caribbean, it’s still a great song about “motorboatin’.” No, I didn’t make that up. Watch the video. While Little Big Town doesn’t fit the exact Lady Antebellum model, their combined harmonies and fun material always makes them one to watch.
Western Avenue “Highway Headin’ Out of Town”
When I write a compilation post like this, there is normally one idea or one song that inspires it. In this case, that inspiration goes to brand-new Canadian trio Western Avenue, who followed me on Twitter over the weekend. It isn’t often that Canadian country acts follow me, so I checked out their account and saw they have a debut single called “Highway Headin’ Out of Town.” I have a soft spot for Canadian country acts, and it is often very tough for them to break through in the US without living and working full-time in Nashville. So I found their song and played it. And I played it again. And again. Next thing you know, the chorus was stuck in my head for a solid hour.
One of the big reasons that “Highway Headin’ Out of Town” got lodged in my head is the hook in the chorus. It is one thing to write a song with a catchy hook, but it is another to capitalize on said hook with strong harmonies, and Western Avenue has that covered. The acoustic performance up above gives you a good idea, but check out the studio version to get the full impact of the song. A solid song, tight production and strong harmonies make “Highway Headin’ Out of Town” and Western Avenue ones to watch. In fact, I get the same vibe listening to “Highway” that I did from Lady Antebellum’s debut single “Love Don’t Live Here,” and look what happened there. Here’s hoping some success in the Great White North gets these folks some well-deserved attention in Music City.
“(Kissed You) Good Night,” “Pontoon” and “Highway Headin’ Out of Town” are all available now on iTunes. Gloriana’s A Thousand Miles Left Behind was released in July, while Western Avenue’s debut and Little Big Town’s Tornado are both slated for September releases.
I love the Western Avenue song and have been listening to “Pontoon” all summer, but the “Kissed You (Good Night)” is not my cup of tea. Perhaps Lady Antebellum would call it reductive? 😉
In all seriousness, glad to have someone in the blogosphere who can introduce me to new country music as this is not the type of music most of the people I read listen to!
Gloriana grew on me, but I really like it now. And so glad you like Western Avenue…hopefully we’ll get to see/hear more of them as things progress. I would mention one other song that I’ve been playing like crazy: Matt Stillwell’s “Ignition” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD5_-euWcho
I’m a huge fan of Little Big Town, I really think they have the most accomplished vocal chops of all the country ‘vocal’ groups out there. I’m surprised (as they may be as well) about the success of “Pontoon”, even more so since country radio really didn’t want to play this until it sold a boatload of singles. I’m happy the such an off-beat record (with its Eastern influences) can connect with a country audience (though the usual party theme couldn’t have hurt them).
As for Gloriana, KMGN grew on me as well (I guess broke me down), and feel they’re more cohesive without ex-member/teen actress Cheyenne in the mix.
I’m also a supporter of our Country friends to the north, and this is the first I heard of WA, and I’m impressed.
I would add Edens Edge to the list. And you know, When Lady A came on the scene, I coulda swore I said they were a knockoff of another group, but forget who. I know it’ll come to me eventually.
I can’t agree more with you on Cheyenne being out of the group. It always felt a bit contrived to me with her there. I’d love to know you thought Lady A was modeled on. And I almost included Edens Edge, but I’m not crazy about the current single.
I’m still wrackting my brain. At first I thought Rascal Flatts, but then said “No, that’s SHeDaisy.” I know one thing, when they came out I said their name was just a thesaurus crib of the Dixie Chicks.
The JaneDear Girls! Just kidding.
I may be on my own on this but I was a bit sad when Cheyenne departed Gloriana, but the highlight was always the two boys vocal blend with a female counterpoint so they do make more sense as a trio. I like them when they are a touch more upbeat but “Good Night” is a pretty good one. And considering I don’t listen to much country (beyond the pop-crossover variety), I guess that says something. Plus, as you said, the boys are from Upstate NY…in particular MY hometown. 😉
I get where you are coming from with Cheyenne, but I felt like her persona and ambition kind of overshadowed the rest of the group. They seem to have landed on their feet nicely, so no harm, no foul.
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