Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood’s 2008 debut had a freshness and immediacy — a melding of country, Southern rock undertones, pop, and distinctive harmonies — that marked Lady Antebellum as ones to watch. And indeed their subsequent releases vaulted them to multiplatinum, award-winning success thanks to hits like “Need You Now” and “Just a Kiss.” But those records also took an occasional detour into glossy, adult contemporary snooze-ville.
“Golden’’ puts some welcome bite back into the proceedings with a more minimalist approach to production and a more substantive approach to the lyrics, which gives the whole album a crisper, more present feeling.
“Goodbye Town” offers a tart flip side to the “Hey, remember when?” strain of songs currently running rampant in contemporary country as the memories encroach with more darkness than light. Mining a similar vein for “Better Off Now (That You’re Gone)” shows that the group’s sweet harmonies can withstand a touch of bitterness to good effect. A George Harrison-esque slide guitar adds some sultry heat to urgent opener “Get to Me.” Tackling larger social themes in the rousing closer “Generation Away” and the melancholy character study “It Ain’t Pretty” proves the trio can credibly expand their canvas as songwriters and artists without sacrificing the lush harmonies and seductive melodies that helped get them to their current golden state. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “It Ain’t Pretty”