Song Review: Little Big Town, “Over Drinking”

Little Big Town may still be trend-hopping, but at least it’s a trend I can support this time.

I’ve already dug into the details of Little Big Town’s career up to this point, so I won’t repeat myself except to say that they haven’t been relevant on the radio for several years now. (Their last single “The Daughters” not only didn’t make enough noise to get on Billboard’s airplay chart, it didn’t motivate me to even bother reviewing it.) Now, however, the quartet is back with “Over Drinking,” the second single from their upcoming Nightfall album, and honestly, this is most positive vibes I’ve gotten from an LBT song since I started the blog nearly three years ago. It’s predictably in line with the trends of the day (a more traditional sound, a more confident narrator, and of course alcohol everywhere you look), but even a trendy tune can work if the execution is sharp, and this is the sharpest the group has sounded in quite some time.

The production here is pretty simple: A low-end hard-rock electric guitar keeping time with a real drum set, a Brad Paisley-esque axe throwing out some riffs to open the track and fill time between choruses (not to mention an admittedly-unimpressive bridge solo), and a steel guitar and Wurlitzer piano in the background to help establish the atmosphere. These aren’t the brightest-toned instruments I’ve ever heard, but the producer does a nice job putting them together to creating an uplifting vibe with a fair amount of positive energy (although the slower tempo and lower volume makes this energy more emotional than kinetic). The mix does a nice job adding weight and credence to the lyrics: The narrator may say that they’re “over drinking over you,” but the optimism in the sound really helps you believe it. (It gets additional points for passing the context text, because it actually sounds like something you’d hear in an old-school barroom.) It’s a solid piece of work, and it sets the rest of the song up for success.

Lead singer Karen Fairchild puts together an impressive performance here as well, especially given the tough spot the song puts her in start. The key is a bit low here and traps her deep in her lower range, and putting the narrator in an ambiguous situation where they could be drinking for any old reason puts the burden of proof on the vocalist to make the narrator believable. This would be a death knell for a weaker singer, but Fairchild manages to maintain her vocal presence here, and infuses her delivery with enough attitude and confidence that when she declares she’s drinking for fun and not to forget, the listener swallows the argument hook, line, and sinker. I’m not sure I would the rest of the group’s harmonies terribly distinct, but they provide cover on the choruses and complement Fairchild’s performance rather than detract from it. (I’m also not sure I would have hurried the hook endings to push them ahead of the beat, but it not only works, it adds a bit more emphasis to the punch line.) It’s a good showing overall, and demonstrates that while LBT may be out of sight, they aren’t quite over the hill just yet.

The lyrics tell the story of a narrator’s who is sick and tired of crying over a failed relationship, and is now drinking only for pleasure. It’s not the most novel or clever story (I’d call the “overdrinking” vs. “over drinking” hook slightly above-average), and it leaves a bit too much open for interpretation (Are they really over the pain? It’s left to Fairchild’s vocals to provide clarity), but it provides enough detail to get the listener a sense of the depths the narrator had sunk to, and there’s no doubt that their intent is to leave the past behind, regardless of how successful their attempt is. It’s the sort of sympathetic, confident declaration that puts the audience squarely in the narrator’s corner and makes them root for that person’s success, and leaves enough hooks for the sound and singer to really bite into the song and elevate it to another level. It’s a nice change of pace from the whiny “woe is me” songs that usually fall into this category, and it’s the sort of thing I wouldn’t mind hearing of from the group.

“Over Drinking” reminds me a lot of Jason Aldean’s “Drowns The Whiskey”: It takes a tired, overdone trope and executes it to perfection, dotting every i and crossing ever t. The production is suitable and satisfying, the writing exudes confidence instead of cheesiness, and Little Big Town ties it all together with their easy, earnest delivery. I don’t expect this to gain much more traction than the group’s last few singles, but there’s still a place in country music for a talented quartet that can hit their marks, and if LBT insists on sticking around past their mainstream expiration date, with song like this, they’ll get no objections from me.

Rating: 7/10. Give this one a shot.