Everyone knows “Need You Now” like the back of their hand. You couldn’t shop, take the elevator, hit up the club or even walk down the street without hearing it back in 2010. As the anchor to Lady Antebellum’s sophomore album, of the same name, the brooding late-night ballad catapulted the group to superstardom: it spent a mammoth five weeks at No.1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs and hit the summit on several pop leaderboards, including Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40. It redefined their careers and sent them down a path of sultry mid-tempos about heading “Downtown,” getting drunk from the “Bartender”s coolly-mixed beverages and feeling funking with “You Look Good.”
And along the way, they’ve notched some fairly artistic stories, the deep cuts embedded on albums like 2011’s underrated Own the Night and 2013’s ripe and bright Golden. Their hit singles, which include “Just a Kiss,” “American Honey” and “Love Don’t Live Here,” don’t tell the full picture of their capabilities. So, One Country has put together the definitive list of 10 best deep cuts, spanning their nearly decade-long career.
10 Best Deep Cuts From Lady Antebellum:
“Long Gone” (from 2008’s self-titled)
The group’s debut album seems like worlds away. Drowned in hearty pop-country that was en vogue in the mid-00s, you don’t get much better than this mid-tempo. They tip their hats to “I Try to Think About Elvis”-era Patty Loveless with a sprinkle of Dixie Chicks, down to the very melodic choices and the swing of Scott’s vocal. “I’m tired of how you twist the truth,” she wails.
“Cold as Stone” (from 2011’s Own the Night)
From their most under-appreciated album to-date, this smooth, downcast reflection of a breakup plods along with the weight of every shade of emotion. There’s sorrow, anger, devastation–mixed with a yearning to be, well, “cold as stone,” so they wouldn’t feel anything at all. Kelley and Scott’s harmonies–and trade off on the verses/choruses–are really the selling point here.
“It Ain’t Pretty” (from 2013’s Golden)
The simplicity of the melody and frankness of lyrics are what make this so endearing. Before Martina McBride dazzled with her own rendition, for her 2016 Reckless LP, Lady A slathers on the sentiment for an ode to the ugly side of life, particularly when it comes to heartbreaks and washing down the pain. “I almost dialed your number to remind you of what you did,” Scott recounts.
“Things People Say” (from 2008’s self-titled)
Sometimes, you can forget how magnetizing Kelley’s vocal is, as he framed so masterfully on his solo album. But here he switches between his chest voice and falsetto with ease–with Scott backing him as expertly as she often does. This was an early indication of their adult contemporary-leaning sensibilities, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“As You Turn Away” (from 2011’s Own the Night)
Ballads are their bread and butter. And why mess with a surefire recipe? Built upon a solid piano foundation, Scott can see and feel her lover leaving her–in his cold embrace, the faded light in his eyes and his abrupt glances away. The violin and the crescendo toward the end–leading into the acoustic breakdown–is chilling.
“Hurt” (from 2017’s Heart Break)
The trio might have lost their way between their fourth and fifth albums, but they return to form with this slow-cooked, tear-soaked ballad. Packed with traditional guitar moans and Scott’s luscious but anguished vocal, the nearly-four-minute song is one of the best compositions of 2017. Borrowing thematic elements of “Need You Now,” it’s both familiar and refreshing.
“Long Stretch of Love” (from 2014’s 747)
When they rev up and give rockers all they’ve got, they (typically) hit it out of the park. The rowdy opener to their generally disappointing fifth studio album is a missile of fun, confidence and charm. From the swirl of electric guitar to their sharp and animated vocals, they don’t mess around. Shoulda, coulda, woulda been a smash hit.
“Love This Pain” (from 2010’s Need You Now)
Pulsating drums and strident guitar ignite this breezy and “busted-up” barn-burner. “It’s like I love this pain a little too much,” Kelley belts, detailing someone who is way too toxic for him but he just can’t seem to quit her. The exasperation is hidden behind a jaunty melody and a clever smirk in the phrasing–but you dig deep, you can find a wellspring of emotion.
“When You Were Mine” (from 2011’s Own the Night)
The glossy piano cuts through the melody, as Scott and company reminisce about a former flame. Probably a bit heavy on the adult contemporary edge but there is a sweetness to Scott’s phrasing amidst the fiery drums and Kelley’s soulful accompaniment. It zips from lumbering to infectious in the span of a verse and chorus lineup. “What if this was it, baby. What if this was our time,” rings out the bridge.
“If I Knew Then” (from 2010’s Need You Now)
Carrying a simmering waltz-like structure, this piano ballad subtly references Trisha Yearwood’s “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway” (thematically, at least) but with less build. That doesn’t mean the trio’s take on heart-wrenching commitment doesn’t speak right to your heart; it does, to great effect. It’s far moodier than Yearwood’s hit but riskier, as the melody doesn’t land on the ear as urgently and undeniably. Kelley’s lead, though, is gutting.