Sugarland burst on the scene as a trio in 2004 and endured not only the loss of Kristen Hall but also avoided the dreaded ‘sophomore slump’ and delivered not only a multi-platinum album with “Enjoy The Ride” but also a pair of number one hits and the award-winning acoustic ballad “Stay.” Rather than rest on their laurels and release one or two more singles from that album, Sugarland is back with an album that’s all but guaranteed to debut at the top of both the country and pop album charts.
Leading off the record is the infectious but polarizing summertime single “All I Want To Do.” Featuring a fun melody, the song was a great choice for the first single off of the record, even if it’s not quite indicative of the rest of the record. Following-up that track is another infectious song with a melody that can only be described as Dwight Yoakam meets George Michael’s “Faith.” The lyrics are catchy and the duo just sings about how ‘life don’t go just how you planned it.’ “Joey” finds Jennifer Nettles singing about the love of her life and how she regretfully allowed him to drive away from her intoxicated. The lyrics have Nettles saying sorry and asking a lot of what if’s. It’s painfully obvious that the character died while driving home. The melody creates a regretful tone as well.
With a melody straight out of the U2 catalog, “Love” has a lyric straight out of Bono’s pen as well. In fact it’s not hard to see him singing the song (he’s one of the few male vocalists who could). While Sugarland has never had a crossover pop hit before, “Love” is destined to be one. It’s also a song that, for the second time, finds Kristian Bush singing the bridge of the song as Nettles sings “I say it’s love” in the background. It’s just a smash hit about all the things love can be. Right after the crossover track, “Genevieve” comes out sounding like a lost Dirt Band track. There’s a ton of Bush’s mandolin, accordion, and harmony-driven vocals. It’s just fun.
“Already Gone” finds Nettles singing lyrics which discuss all the ways in which one can be ‘already gone’ while “Keep You” finds her singing, beautifully as usual, about all the ways to keep someone. Both songs are substantially acoustically-based but they’re firmly pop-oriented. “Take Me As I Am” and “What I’d Give” are both big areana-ready country/pop songs (which nettles sings the hell out of) that could follow “Love” into cross-over territory.
There have been a few country songs that name-check popular artists and while some have been hits “Johnny Cash” and “Tim McGraw,” they typically have nothing to do with the artist mentioned in the song. Well, “Steve Earle” is a song finds Nettles singing a story-song to/about him. It’s an interesting song that might be the ‘countriest’ song on the record. The melody is fun, I’ll give them that (and the song features a steel guitar solo). The regular version of the record ends with “The Very Last Country Song” and it’s a theme that has been hinted at before. The vocal laid out by Nettles on this track is simply stunning and the whole song is a simple, guitar-vocal (with some dobro added in parts) track much like the way “Stay” ended the “Enjoy The Ride” album.
On the fan-edition of “Love On The Inside” there are five bonus tracks and all of them add to the over-all theme of the record. “Fall Into Me” is a beautiful country ballad, “Operation: Working Vacation” is a fun summertime, 80’s-like road song while, “Wishing” adds to the acoustic-pop story that the duo has started with “Stay” and “The Very Last Country Song.” These acoustic flavored tracks are so good the duo really should consider releasing a complete acoustic album sometime down the line.
Closing out the record are a couple of live tracks. One is the recording of the vocal event with Little Big Town and Jake Owen. Recorded when the three acts toured together, “Life In A Northern Town” is a nice update of the 1980’s pop song and one most fans are excited to finally have on record. “Come On Get Higher” is their cover of acoustic pop singer/songwriter Matt Nathanson. It’s very good and plays at the duo’s strengths.
While Sugarland could’ve simply recorded another album like “Enjoy The Ride,” they haven’t. They’ve managed to record a record that touches on many parts of country music and they’ve also managed to expand country. It’s a country record, it’s a pop record, and it’s everything I expected the album to be and more.
To listen to a preview of the track "Love" click the image below: