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updated: 9/13/2012 6:18 AM

Little Big Town turns it up on 'Tornado'

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  • Little Big Town's "Tornado"

    Little Big Town's "Tornado"

Associated Press

Little Big Town, "Tornado" (Capitol Nashville)

By the first chorus of opening song "Pavement Ends," Little Big Town makes it obvious they are taking a more modern, more adventurous approach on their fifth album, "Tornado."

One of country music's most rousing live acts, the vocal group hasn't achieved the success at country radio that its reputation suggests. "Little White Church," from their 2010 album "The Reason Why," was only their third Top Ten hit, and the next two releases didn't crack the Top 40.

So the four vocalists -- Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Philip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook -- switched producers to Jay Joyce, who has guided the albums of Capitol label mate Eric Church.

The change works wonders: The band's recent single "Pontoon" has become the first No. 1 hit in the group's 10-year history. The musical sound is decidedly more modern. "Leavin' in Your Eyes" employs a rhythm-machine beat and swirling keyboards, which brings more focus to the warmth and emotion of Little Big Town's vocal arrangement.

Whatever the motivation -- desperation for a hit or simply wanting to try something new -- the changes on "Tornado" blow fresh energy into Little Big Town.

Check this out: Amid all the out-loud transformations, the new album's most stunning track is "On Your Side of the Bed," a quiet ballad about one member of a couple confronting the other about the growing distance between them. It brings out the timeless beauty in the group's individual voices and in their remarkable harmonies.

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