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Little Big Town’s harmonies quadruple the fun

By WERNER TRIESCHMANN SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published June 20, 2013 at 3:10 a.m.

little-big-town-from-left-kimberly-schlapman-jimi-westbrook-karen-fairchild-and-arkansas-native-phillip-sweet-will-perform-at-magic-springs-this-weekend

Little Big Town — (from left) Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook, Karen Fairchild and Arkansas native Phillip Sweet — will perform at Magic Springs this weekend.

For a country music act, Little Big Town - Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet - is unusual in how long it has been among the top acts in Nashville. The group released its first album in 2002 and, though it has switched record labels and hasn’t been a consistent hit machine, the 11 years making music makes Little Big Town a veteran act in an industry that has few and far between.

In 2012 the fortune of Little Big Town was bolstered in a big way by the No. 1 country single “Pontoon” off Tornado, the band’s first full-length album for Capitol Records. The group, which has an Arkansas native in Sweet, will bring its noted four-part harmonies to the stage at Magic Springs at 8 p.m. Saturday.

The other fact that separates Little Big Town from its fellow performers is that you can look out over the landscape of country music and you don’t see any imitators. Nashville is hardly shy in stamping out look-alikes - it’s not a strain to find groups similar in sound and even appearance to hot acts such as Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum. Little Big Town’s four singers, two males and two females, is unique.

“There’s other bands that rely on harmonies,” says Sweet, who hails from Cherokee Village. “But you are right that there are none in our configuration. We share the load of the singing duties. When one steps out to take the lead, then somebody else will be next. That’s what you don’t see a lot.”

Those blended voices are Little Big Town’s signature and have garnered them favorable comparisons to Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. Those harmonies are also part of the reason the band has been a critics’ darling and a Grammy winner (for Best Country Group/ Duo Performance for “Pontoon”). Having four members out front would seemingly make the band more susceptible to in-fighting and break-ups.

Sweet says that hasn’t been the case: “We have a strong relationship that’s kept us together through the lean years. We’ve been at this long enough to know how it works and we know not to let the business run us.”

Though Sweet and his band mates have had chart-busting songs, he says nothing they’ve seen compares to the reaction his band has had since the release of“Pontoon.”

“That song literally changed our lives,” Sweet says. “This means we’ll be able to play live as long as we want to. It’s so much fun to play that song live. When the crowds hear those opening chords, they go crazy. I am just smiling from ear to ear when that happens.”

Little Big Town is happy to give country music fans a taste of its music whenever and wherever possible. Sweet says his band will be on the road until early next year and then they will stop and record the next album.

“We have blocked some studio time,” he says. “I think we will probably [record it] pretty quick. That’s what we did with Tornado and that turned out better than we could have imagined.”

Sweet calls his band true road warriors. Changes in life - marriages and children - have become part of the routine.

“We aren’t single and 21 anymore, that’s for sure,” Sweet says, “We made a commitment to not be away from family. That makes the job much less like a job. Besides, our kids have a bunk bed on the bus.”

Little Big Town

8 p.m. Saturday, Magic Springs Water and Theme Park, U.S. 70 East (Grand Avenue), Hot Springs

Admission: $54.99 day of concert, $49.99 online; senior citizens 55 and up $33.99. Reserved seating $10 or $5 additional charge

(501) 624-0100

magicsprings.com

Weekend, Pages 36 on 06/20/2013

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