For many Country music fans the announcement that Sugarland were getting back together after their five year hiatus was the best news we’d had this decade! The duo went on to perform their first shows since being back together right here in the UK as part of Country 2 Country Festival and now their new record Bigger hits shelves this Friday 8th June. If you thought Sugarland was going to pick up where they left off then you would be wrong. Throughout their careers they have always been a band who has evolved and progressed, keeping up with the changing market whilst staying true to themselves and their fans. This record is no different. The five year break has allowed Jennifer and Kristian the freedom to explore music alone and with other collaborators. They’ve found different influences and both produced music at opposite ends of the Country scale. Now they’re reunited they’re bringing those experiences together and you can hear that on this record.
The record opens with the title track Bigger which has a feel good Pop-Country vibe to it. It’s positive message resonates with the listener, lyrics about not giving up and how there’s better days ahead, a message we all need to hear sometimes. In their live shows this is going to be something of an anthem. The vibe stays the same - quite uptempo, for the second track, On A Roll. The melody of this is quite quirky and catchy after the second chorus their is a surprise for Sugarland fans as Jennifer Nettles attempts to rap… and pulls it off quite well! Let Me Remind You follows, again there’s interesting melodies that really suit Jennifer’s unique southern twang. Even though it’s unusual the way it fits with the beat, it’s still quite easy for the listener to pick up and sing along to.
The fourth track is just beautiful, Mother does remind me of Sugarland’s Love on the Inside era. The production is quite stripped back allowing the focus to fall on these beautiful lyrics. It builds throughout though and comes to a climax with some beautiful string arrangements. Then we progress on to Still the Same the first single off this record, this channels a similar vibe to the Incredible Machine record. Again it has almost an anthem vibe to it. I could say it will go down great at Festivals but we already know that for a fact after the bands performance of this song at C2C. The sixth track Lean It On Back is another upbeat, relaxed number about taking it slow. This is followed by the second single off the record which is the only song Sugarland have released that’s not written by either Jennifer or Kristian. Yes, this song is Babe, written by Taylor Swift and Patrick Monahan who is the lead singer of Train. It was initially written for Taylor Swift’s album Red but never made the cut and when the band announced their reunion Taylor pitched this song to them and it features the Pop sensation. I love this song in context with the rest of the album especially, you can hear it’s a Taylor Swift song but fits nicely with what material Sugarland are putting out now, plus it really suits Jennifer’s vocals.
Bird in a Cage has some beautiful melodies and lyrics once again, it has a different vibe to the proceeding track, it’s not quite as commercial and we start to hear a softer side to the band. And we strip it back even more for Love Me Like I’m Leaving, the instrumentation compliments this song well, we can hear some pedal steel and the effects on the electric guitar are a classic sound we’ve come to expect and love in this Country-pop genre. The lyrics are clever and the chorus sticks in your mind. The next song and the third single off this record really breaks my heart. I’ve listened to this song the most out of the whole record as it has such a depth to it. A classic storytelling lyric tells the story of a school shooting in the first verse whilst the chorus asks if we’d asked the culprit “Where does it hurt?” would the outcome have been different. The second chorus talks of a girl being bullied online as she contemplates suicide and once again we wonder if we’d asked the same question would there be a different outcome. The string arrangement really adds to the powerful message of this song and the bridge with Jennifer’s vocals belting out, you can hear and feel the emotion and weight of the questions asked in the chorus. The album comes to a close with Not The Only which carries a positive message to end the record on and it features a fantastic outro where we hear Kristian’s vocals more.
It is a fantastic comeback album from Sugarland who in some ways have picked up where they left off, there is no drastic changes in their style of music but they are definitely taking influences from further afield and are not afraid to experiment with this new music and speak out on the issues they feel need addressing. Similarly their record is full of positive vibes and messages which is something their music has always delivered well. I would have liked to have heard a bit more of Kristian’s vocals but Jennifer’s vocals are sounding better than ever! It is one of the record’s of the year for me, up there with Kacey Musgraves and Ashley McBryde’s latest offerings. It’s a must buy!