Lady Antebellum — “Cold as Stone” (from Own the Night) —
A crisp, cool fall morning here in Austin, Texas: I am lounging out on the back patio, preparing for a Brandon’s Buzz Radio interview I’ll be conducting later this afternoon (stay tuned), watching my baby girl happily gnaw on the same damned jumbo-sized bone she’s been trying to conquer for about six days now — she’s a stubborn one, that Kelly-girl! — and listening to the spankin’ new Lady Antebellum record, which I’m kinda sad to report is not leaving much of an impression on me at all. (To be fair, I’m giving it something less than full, rapt attention, but neither is Night doing much of anything snap me into submission.) I had a sense that we might be in trouble early in the summer when the project’s lead single, “Just a Kiss,” turned out to be nothing more than a warmed-over piece of pop-leaning tripe. (Gotta admit that I really dig the video, though.) It was clear at that point that we weren’t likely to be in for a Sugarland-style boundary buster here. But, stretched out to album-size, Night comes off, largely, as Lady A’s flat, aw-shucks apology to Nashville for betraying the unspoken trust and achieving such massive crossover success for themselves. (A not-very-convincing apology, at that.) The arrangements — practically to a note — are, to say the least, uninspired, and Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott — both of whom turned in work that was quite revelatory on their previous album, the multi-platinum smash Need You Now — actually seem to sleepwalk their way through entire songs this time around. The band’s members have stated publicly that “Cold as Stone” is their favorite track on the new record, and it’s not at all difficult to discern why: with its wildly unexpected Celtic flavorings (and a lead vocal from Kelley that at least challenges his powerful performance on “Hello World,” his previous high water mark), it’s the only moment in this wobbly, odd Night-mare that even remotely challenges this band to think outside the box they’ve so weirdly and willingly decided to shoehorn themselves into.