Lady A (formerly ‘Lady Antebellum’ until the Black Lives Matter protests prompted them to remove the ‘Antebellum’ part of their name) return with a seven song EP that could be set to re-establish them at the forefront of the modern Country scene.
This is the trio’s second release for Nashville big-hitters Big Machine Label Group and is a glorious return to the sound that took them to the top of the charts in 2010 with the classic ‘Need You Now’.
If you’re already a fan (and I am), this will be an instant purchase. But if you’re simply a casual listener with some familiarity with the band via their big hits and/or recent singles, there is an awful lot to enjoy here. Lady A have always mixed their influences into the melting pot for their sound, with a lovely combination of Country, Soft Rock and soulful Pop all coming together to create their take on modern Country music.
Recent albums, while a more than pleasant listen, have contained more than their fair share of filler with an increasingly ‘Pop’ production. This time (like their label debut ‘Oceans’ from 2019), they’ve brought in genius producer and guitarist extraordinaire Dann Huff, who Rock fans will remember from countless sessions in the 80s and 90s, including Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again single version, from AOR band Giant’s two monstrous albums in the late 80s/early 90s, who Country fans will know from equally countless sessions in the 90s including Shania Twain’s massive ‘Come on Over’ and much of Faith Hill’s back catalogue, not to mention his many production credits since.
He has restored the balance in the production on these tracks and given Lady A back their classic sound. Truth to tell, it’s a subtle shift, but an important one.
Songwriting on this EP is excellent and is in part handled by the trio themselves – at least one of them has a hand in every song, with co-writing credits for big-hitters Thomas Rhett, Ryan Hurd and the brilliant Natalie Hemby. This goes a long way towards explaining the quality of the material on offer here.
The EP opens with ‘Talk of This Town’ – a mid-paced slow-burner which sees the trio’s fabulous and unmistakeable harmony vocals layered to perfection in the massive chorus while mandolins and subtle electric guitars sparkle away in the background.
First single and title track ‘What a Song Can Do’ is an uptempo belter with another completely irresistible chorus. Huff’s production on this track (and throughout the EP) is a masterclass in using light and shade. It’s very polished, with layers of chiming guitars driving the song to its conclusion, but Huff knows exactly when to pull the foot off the gas and when to put it back again.
The uptempo vibe continues with ‘Like A Lady’ where the guitars have a little more bite (especially in the rather fine solo), but where fiddle and banjo licks suddenly remind you that you’re listening to a Country EP, even though the song has a massive Soft Rock vibe going on.
‘Things He Handed Down’ is a classic bit of Country writing focusing on taking the wisdom of one’s elders. Opening with beautifully picked acoustic guitar and vocal, the song’s chorus expounds words of wisdom that, while nothing new or too mind-blowingly deep, are nonetheless good advice – “Don’t mix wine with whiskey, don’t put Jesus in a box, Never spend more money than you make.
Don’t burn a bridge that maybe one day you’ll have to cross…” the trio purr over a beautifully simple Country-Pop production with subtle pedal steel weeping away amongst the piano and acoustic guitars. It’s a beautiful modern Country ballad.
‘Fire’ is a little more generic in its chord structures and melodies – you’ll hear a million songs similar to this on Country radio coming out of Nashville over the past few years, but to be fair, Lady A’s performance (especially the stunning harmony vocals) and Huff’s fabulous production elevate this somewhat above the ordinary. The dobro solo in this one is particularly fine. Classy stuff despite the slightly generic structure.
‘Chance of Rain’ is a cracker – possibly this reviewer’s favourite track on the EP. It’s full of huge guitars, infectious melodies and colossal harmonies. The production is particularly stunning on this one, building from the subtle opening to the massively multi-layered chorus absolutely perfectly.
It drives along relentlessly and has a particularly fine lyric expounding the importance of not being too wary and cautious, and the importance taking a chance on what life and love has to offer. Good advice for sure! Fans of Tom Petty’s most melodic tracks will probably find a lot to enjoy in this one. In fact, any fan of melodic Soft Rock should give this track a listen – you’ll love it!
The EP closes with the brilliant ‘Worship What I Hate’. Lyrically probably the best track on the album, it talks about the importance of not being dragged into the darkness of over-reliance on social media, body shame, addiction, etc and the importance of looking forward and loving oneself for the beautiful person one actually is.
I’m not ashamed to say that it struck a chord and made me think! This track also uses a false ending to great effect, with the final main chorus ending and an extended ending playing out with sighing strings and aching dobro echoing the vibe of the lyric.
A quite brilliant end to a superb EP, which is heartily recommended to anyone who likes modern Country, or highly melodic soft Pop-Rock. It doesn’t break any new ground, but is representative of the very finest music coming out of Nashville’s corporate Country scene right now and is Lady A’s best work in quite a while
The music is the core of who we are and we really hope you can find your own stories in these songs. http://LA.lnk.to/WASCDCh1ID
Keep up with Lady A: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ladyaband
Official Website: https://www.ladyamusic.com