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Review: Lady Antebellum builds on debut

The Associated Press, Monday, January 25, 2010, 9:09am (PST)

Lady Antebellum, "Need You Now" (Capitol Nashville)

Lady Antebellum's second album, "Need You Now," achieves what a follow-up to a million-selling debut should. It accentuates what distinguishes the trio's talent — rich harmonies, grown-up melodies and a special group dynamic — by sounding more mature and more aware of what makes them special.

The trio of Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood are country music's biggest breakout act of the last two years behind the supernova of Taylor Swift. Besides their sales success, their debut album went No. 1, and they picked up three CMA Awards and four Grammy nominations.

"Need You Now" already has built on that momentum: The title song spent five weeks at No. 1 on the country radio charts. As with their debut, the opening hit exemplifies the group's willingness to push country conventions: A drunken post-midnight call to an ex-lover is a bold theme for a modern country hit, but its true power comes in how well it expresses the longing that can haunt a breakup.

Those strengths run throughout the album, from the budding youthful wisdom of "American Honey" to the complexities of the love song "If I Knew Then" to the celebratory stomp of "Stars Tonight." "Need You Now" is the sound of a young country act's potential becoming fully realized.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "Ready To Love Again" features Scott's lush alto and how the trio's harmonies excel at expressing at contemplative feelings, while the subtle dynamics of piano-and-strings arrangement reveals how they have grown musically.

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