BIG MACHINE Label Group
Release Date: November 15th 2019
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- What If I Never Get Over You
- Crazy Love
- You Can Do You
- What I’m Leaving For
- Be Patient With My Love
- Let It Be Love
- On a Night Like This
- The Thing That Wrecks You (feat. Little Big Town)
Lady Antebellum need no introduction. With the band forming in 2006, Lady Antebellum have a lot of history to bring to us in 2020- 8 albums, 2 EP, 22 radio Singles, and 10 #1 Country Chart singles later; Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley have created a solid platform for them to continue to have an influence, not only on the country music collective as a whole, but also in people’s hearts and lives throughout the years. Since listening to them from when I discussed about them in my blog post series in mid-March, up until now; the band have broadened my outlook on country music and made me respect the musical genre all the more, in a very short period of time- and while they do have some feel-good ‘let’s have a good time at the bar’ songs, the majority of their music stems from heartfelt and personal stories that make melodies connect with the listener. A lot of their songs are indeed radio hits, but often, it isn’t necessarily the radio hits of the group/band/artist that speak to the listener, but rather, the ‘underground’ song that may not get as much of a radio attention as the band may have hoped. Nevertheless, Lady Antebellum are one such band that have had a wide array of album releases, that many songs can impact many listeners from all walks of life. And it is their brand-new album Ocean, that released in November 2019, that is one of the most emotive and heartfelt albums out of all of the albums from Lady Antebellum thus far- with less ‘party’ songs and more ‘honesty’ songs, the set of 13 tracks delivers messages we as listeners need to hold onto, especially now during this time of uncertainty as this global pandemic continues to worsen.
Even though for me, my introduction to a full-length album by Lady Antebellum was in fact Ocean last year (after hearing Hillary Scott in 2016 with her album Love Remains), I nevertheless felt like their brand new album was some of the most heartfelt songs by any country band/artist that I’ve heard in quite some time. Spanning a track-listing of 13 songs; ‘What If I Never Get Over You?’ is the first single by Lady Antebellum from this album, and though standing at a little longer than 3 minutes; Hillary, Dave and Charles have created a track that, though discussing about a failed relationship, can still be relatable and relevant to people from all walks of life. As guitarist Dave Haywood relays to us all, ‘…I feel like ‘What If I Never Get Over You’ is a turn back to our beginning, both in the sound and the core of who we are. We love being able to put out those big questions about lost love, like ‘What if time doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do?’ or ‘What if I never move on from this relationship?’…To me, this song just stands out so much because it asks so many great questions that are unanswered. What if time doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do? What if I never get over you? I think we’ve all been there, and I think that’s what’s always been so powerful about ‘Need You Now.’…’ I’m sure everybody feels like how the people feel in the song- there are things, be it relationships or even death of people close to us, that we may never ‘get over’- as if when the relationship is finished or the death of a person happens, the grieving process needs to be quickened- but often to quicken the healing process means to shove feelings down into your soul as you don’t deal with the trauma that losing a loved one- in terms of a breakup or a death, can be for a person. ‘What If I Never Get Over You’ is such a song to relate to because we understand that often it’s ok to be in the muck a little and to sit there to ask the question ‘why?’- this song gives us permission to do just that.
Ocean by far has some of the most emotive and heartfelt songs I’ve heard since ‘I Run to You’ and ‘Need You Now’, and in some ways, feels like a quasi-spiritual/gospel/country album. For me that’s ok, because I love all things CCM, and also for the band members, the transition from being just a country band to being a country band with some faith elements, is ok with them as well. As lead singer Charles relays to us, ‘…It’s definitely a way more vulnerable record. I will speak personally that I’ve really gone through a lot of life changes it seems like in the past few years. I really was having to assess myself and look at who I wanted to become. I think having a kid really does that to you. I was really struggling with connecting to my spirituality and I was drinking too much, all kinds of stuff, and I just kind of got to the point where I knew I needed to rein it back in. Be Patient With My Love, that was the first song after I wrote it that I sent to Hillary and Dave. They were like, ‘OK, this is real. We need to start trying to really even be more honest for all the rest of the songs we picked for this record’. Shortly after that Hillary wrote Let It Be Love. Then we found songs like Ocean. Ocean is a song that said it better than we could. I always love when we find a song that we wish we had written and Ocean was one of those. Thematically the whole record is about owning where you are and being vulnerable and a little bit more of an open book. I think for the past few records maybe we weren’t as honest as we could have been…’ It is through this quote that I admire Lady Antebellum for their courage to speak honestly and to be vulnerable to listeners, as we know that a band that is vulnerable, heartfelt and real, tend to have more of an impact on the lives of people, than the bands and artists that try to fake it and pretend that they are ok. And for a lot of Ocean, inclusive of ‘What If I Never Get Over You’, honesty is the key and the case in these melodies.
Looking through the track-listing, we see that vulnerability and honesty are the key for making this album the success that it is. ‘Pictures’ strips down the music and brings to the fore acoustics and light percussion as the message of getting the ‘perfect’ picture at the expense of anything real and hiding difficulties about home life is showcased; while ‘Crazy Love’ renews the love the persona has for his wife (probably based upon the real love Charles has for his own wife) as we understand the transformation that has occurred for thankfulness and gratitude to take root. ‘What I’m Leaving For’, the current radio single, is yet another acoustically driven song with Hillary at the lead-singer-helm as the theme of leaving home for touring life is discussed. The band now have a renewed sense and purpose to do what they do, while also not taking the home life for granted as maybe they have done so in the past. ‘Alright’ is a timely reminder that things will be alright if we know that there’s nothing that a little encouragement won’t turn around, when we know that God Himself is showing us opportunities to speak life and words of affirmation to someone else, or is bringing someone else our way to do the same; while ‘You Can Do You’ quickens up the pace a little as the band present this issue of freedom and doing things without restraint and inhibition, as we understand that often, our freedom rights can be taken for granted. Nevertheless, as upbeat and funky the sound is, this song is nevertheless timely, in the understanding that ‘…you can do you, I’ma do me, we all came here for the same thing, we’re all living in the land of the free, so you can do you, and I’ma do me…’
‘On a Night Like This’, just the piano and the two vocals in Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, is a song fit for the movies where two star-crossed lovers are singing, and in my opinion, could potentially be ‘My Heart Will Go On’ #2 if given the right exposure on film; while a song like ‘Boots’ is a song about commitment from a bloke’s POV. A twist on the classic song ‘these boots are made for walking’, ‘Boots’ by Lady Antebellum reminds us that the boots are staying put, and are in for the long haul. ‘The Thing That Wreck’s You’, a collaboration with country quartet Little Big Town, is in essence a warning of sorts- the persona wants the other the heed their warning of caution, to not travel down upon a certain path that may potentially lead down to the ‘thing that wreck’s you’. ‘Mansion’ has an R’n’B folksy feel as this acoustically driven song presents this theme of not needing expensive things as proof to showcase love to one another- you can have all the mansions without the love and it’ll be far worse than the other way around; while the the album ender ‘Ocean’, not written by the band at all, is also one of the most vulnerable songs on the album, as the persona (Hillary) sings about another person she want to have a relationship with, but the person is closed because of their demons they need to face. The metaphor of an ocean is nice imagery, as the band bring the album to a close with one of the most introspective and reflective album closers they’ve done in a long, long time.
‘Let It Be Love’ and ‘Be Patient With My Love’ are the two remaining songs on the album, and are both my favourites- the former is a heartfelt prayer for grace and compassion as the lead singer Charles Kelley struggles with a bunch of personal issues, all the while longing for change to happen but wanting people to ‘be patient with my love’, while ‘Let it be Love’ is a call for love in all its facets to be the forefront and motivation of why we do what we do- love should be our first motivator and our first resource, rather than our last resort. Both these songs are so, so vulnerable and needed in a society that is locked away in their feelings, especially during this time of social distancing and isolation because of COVID-19. Charles Kelley, lead singer, relays info on both these songs, as we understand that it is often the songs where vulnerability and poignancy are celebrated, encouraged and fostered, are the songs that will impact generations, for generations to come- ‘…[Be Patient With My Love] is my story over the past few years, just really kind of struggling with finding my direction and what I want out of this life. We’d been a band for 12, 13 years, and I’ve been married now for 10 years. You kind of get to this point where you’re like, ‘All right, where is this going? Is it going to be the same?’ I just needed a reset, and around this time I really was struggling with my spirituality. I was struggling with my drinking, all of it, and just chasing after something. We were with [co-writers] Dave Barnes and Ben West at the time, and we started this song and it was this funny, fun, happy song that we wrote really fast. But I was like, ‘Something about this is not good enough. Let’s write something real.’ And Dave Barnes just started strumming his guitar and the lyrics just poured out: ‘Might’ve done it this time/I drank too much wine/I might’ve said something that I can’t take back.’ The irony is the lyric is saying, ‘I’m coming back to my senses,’ but at the time I really wasn’t. The reality of the song didn’t come to fruition till about six months to a year after I wrote it. This is hands down the most vulnerable and open and honest I’ve ever been in my song-writing…it was shortly after that Hillary writes ‘Let It Be Love,’ which is another song about really owning some of your struggles and knowing that end of the day it’s all about love and what we want our kids to learn from us. It really started this conversation of us not just trying to sit here and make a record of what we think are radio hits, but let’s just make a record that speaks to us and we’ll hopefully speak to the fans…’
So there you have it- Ocean by Lady Antebellum. Not a Christian album per se, the collection of songs nevertheless offer to us songs with country and faith influences, as many songs, like ‘Let It Be Love’, ‘Crazy Love’, ‘Be Patient With My Love’, ‘Pictures’ and ‘Boots’, have a faith leaning, as we realise that an album that isn’t necessarily a ‘Christian’ one, can still be an album that will impact others with the love of God- Ocean and its songs are evidence of this. It was the album Love Remains by Hillary Scott that piqued my interest into the music of Lady Antebellum in the first place, and I’m certainly glad that I did listen- the band, like Rascal Flatts, anchor the country music industry in terms of bands within it, quite well. Ocean, because of their honest music, speaks volumes to myself, as I’m sure many others too- this album can and possibly will become one the their most impactful albums in their whole career thus far. Well done Charles, Hillary and Dave for this powerful album, looking forward to listening to it on repeat for the next few months ahead.
3 songs to listen to: Let It Be Love, Ocean, Be Patient With My Love
RIYL: Carrie Underwood, Mallary Hope, Rascal Flatts, Matthew West, Steven Curtis Chapman