Little Big Town Debuts New Song With Help From the Roots

Little Big Town may have wished they could "Stay All Night" when they visited Jimmy Fallon and performed on the Tonight Show this week, but they certainly made an impression with the time they had. The group, whose newest record, Pain Killer, debuted this week at Number Three on the country albums chart, was joined by Tonight Show house band the Roots for a beefed-up version of album highlight "Stay All Night." The performance included what may be a first for country music on TV: a tuba!

The unexpected is par for Little Big Town's course, however, especially when it comes to working with their Pain Killer producer, Jay Joyce.

"Jay brings wildness," Karen Fairchild recently told Rolling Stone Country of the man who has also helmed acclaimed albums by Eric Church and the Wallflowers. "He's such a creative guy and he likes to see if we can pull one over on ourselves again: Can we do it better than we did last time? He's always up for the chase. But he's very confident. He thinks of things you'd never think of."

"He's like a rock & roll guru, a Zen punk rocker," added Phillip Sweet.

The Tonight Show appearance caps off a memorable October for the quartet, who have been together for 15 years. In addition to the release of Pain Killer, Little Big Town recently became the newest act inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, welcomed by longtime Opry cast members Vince Gill and Little Jimmy Dickens. 

"My mother started listening to it as a kid," the group's Kimberly Schlapman said of the 89-year-old radio show. "We listened to it growing up at our house. Then when we came to town, I came to the Opry a few times and sat out in the audience and just dreamed, 'I wonder what it feels like to be invited to be an Opry member.' I've played that through my head so many times across the years. Now we finally know."

The group's first-ever public performance (other than in record-label conference rooms in pusuit of a recording deal) took place during a Grand Ole Opry show.

"That was the same day we signed our record deal," says the group's fourth member, Jimi Westbrook, whose blistering rock vocal is another highlight of the Tonight Show's "Stay All Night."

Little Big Town's Pain Killer Tour, featuring opening acts Brett Eldredge and Brothers Osborne, kicks off Friday, November 8th, in Youngstown, Ohio.

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Cowboy Ballads & Country Rockers: Garth Brooks Previews New LP

Earlier this morning, while fans logged onto GhostTunes to hear free, 60-second clips of the 14 songs from Garth Brooks' forthcoming Man Against Machine, the singer hosted a more in-depth listening session at the headquarters of his new record label, Sony Music Nashville. 

The setting — a renovated chapel that Sony currently uses as a listening room — was formal enough, but Brooks kept things casual, taking the stage/pulpit in blue jeans, sneakers, baseball cap and an oversized Nashville Predators sweatshirt. He got serious when it came to the music, though, visibly choking up during a live, acoustic performance of "Mom" — a ballad he described as "a conversation that goes on between God and this unborn baby who's about to go down to Earth" — and allowing the playback of several other songs, including "Send 'Em Down the Road" and the flag-waving "All-American Kid," to move him to tears. 

Throughout the 90-minute event, he dished out plenty of praise for Nashville's songwriting community, whose members wrote the bulk of the album. Wynn Varble received the most shout-outs, with Brooks — who only co-wrote three of Man Against Machine's 14 songs, a significant drop from his previous records — emphasizing the fact that he's not just the singer of these tunes, but a serious fan, as well. 

"The songwriters of today are way above the songwriters of the Nineties," he claimed, admitting that he "didn't trust [his] pen" in the face of such strong competition. "These kids are sharp. They blew me away."

Other album highlights included the closing track, "Tacoma," a bluesy, old-school R&B tune cut from the same cloth as Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman," and "Midnight Train," a minor-key anthem driven forward by the sound of a very different Sledge: session percussionist (and longtime Garth collaborator) Milton Sledge. Brooks credited his bandmates, including Sledge, guitarist Ryan Sutton and pianist Bobby Wood, for filling Man Against Machine's tracks with loose, natural and organic performances — rare things in the world of slick, major-label country music. 

"We didn't use any click tracks," Brook said of the recording process, "but there are loops on this record — and they breathe. I've never heard a loop breathe before."

Before wrapping up the listening session and heading north to prep for this weekend's concerts in Lexington, Kentucky, Brooks also reminded everyone that Man Against Machine — originally intended to be a double album — will be quickly followed by another album, much of it compiled from the 15-plus songs that were recorded for Man Against Machine and ultimately axed from the final tracklist. Expect songs from that album to start hitting the radio in Fall 2015, with the full record arriving the following year. 

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