With Little Big Town’s A Place to Land failing to build on the success of its predecessor and a glut of soundalike acts like Cole Deggs & the Lonesome, Whiskey Falls, and Flynnville Train not making any real impression whatsoever, mainstream country has yet to find a band that’s been able to dethrone the appalling Rascal Flatts from the top of radio playlists. Enter Lady Antebellum, a vocal trio and self-described “songwriting collective” consisting of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood, whose debut arrives to considerable buzz around Nashville. Like Little Big Town, the group’s trademarks are their dual male and female lead vocal arrangements, courtesy of Kelley and Scott, and a take on contemporary country that owes more to ‘70s rock and R&B than to traditional genre forms. While their harmonies aren’t nearly as intricate and their overall sound isn’t as immediately distinctive, it wouldn’t be fair to dismiss Lady Antebellum as merely an LBT knockoff. “Lookin’ for a Good Time” embraces the group’s structure by working as a proper duet, which has become surprisingly rare in modern country. More encouraging is that, despite their recycled titles, songs like “Long Gone,” “All We’d Ever Need,” and lead single “Love Don’t Live Here” display a superior knack for writing memorable hooks. The polished arrangements from producers Victoria Shaw and Paul Worley emphasize the group’s pop smarts; fully half of the songs on the album sound like viable singles, which goes a long way toward justifying the industry hype. There’s nothing revolutionary here, just a solid set of songs performed with definite skill and enthusiasm, which is more than can be said for many of their contemporaries. Moreover, Lady Antebellum’s debut suggests that the trio has the talent (Scott, in particular, has an interesting sense of phrasing that balances Kelley’s somewhat affected attempts at an R&B growl) to do something more progressive down the road.
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