Lady Antebellum, "Own The Night" (Capitol Nashville)
At a time when young country stars typecast themselves into roles that border on caricature — men brag about how rural they are to hard rock beats, women speak of empowerment with an aggressive sneer — Lady Antebellum presents an engaging anomaly steeped in sophistication and subtlety, rather than stereotypes and superficiality.
The trio — Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood — address issues about relationships with an engaging honesty rare in any musical genre. They've been rewarded with multiplatinum, crossover success; their 2009 No. 1 smash "Need You Now" had them winning top awards at the CMAs, ACMs and the Grammys.
Their third album, "Own The Night," doesn't attain the heights of their 2009 album, also titled "Need You Now," but it's a consistently winning collection that plays to their strengths. After an across-the-board success, Lady A could have overthought their next move. Instead, they draw again on their songwriting depth and appealing vocal blend. The group mixes lively songs that don't insult anyone's intelligence with moody narratives that probe the relationship complexities of young adults, as on the album's first hit, "Just A Kiss."
Producer Paul Worley, who previously worked with the Dixie Chicks and Martina McBride, is the perfect foil for the trio. Worley's touch, with lush orchestration and rousing guitars and rhythms, serves the band's talents and themes well. Together, the team represents how country music can use its strengths — songwriting and strong-yet-earthy vocals that explore real-life situations and emotions — in a way that carries universal appeal.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "Wanted You More," a simmering drama about a break up, displays how the band uses piano, strings, drums and voices that whisper and soar to express quiet heartbreak, and an explosive emotional release.