Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Playlist

Get Your Summer On, Y'all!

To help you celebrate the official start of summer, The Inky Jukebox presents ten songs that make us feel like kicking back and enjoying a cold beer with the smell of sweat and sunblock on our skin.

Which songs would you put on a Top Ten Summertime list? Add your list in the comments section below.

  • Sounds So Good – Ashton Shepherd

Why? Well, there is this line from Shepherd’s breakout hit: “There ain’t nothing like the sound of a cooler slushing on the bed of your truck.” You don’t need any other reasons than that. (Lawdy, The Inky Jukebox LOVES this gal – listen to her sing!) The song cranks up hard and fast and just keeps going.

  • Jersey Girl – Bruce Springsteen

Not actually a Springsteen song: it’s beautiful writing by Tom Waits. The accordion lends it a seaside Jersey Shore sound before the Jersey Shore was besmirched by yobbos on TV. It’s olde-timey and slow and romantic. Absolutely joyous.

See you on the street and you look so tired
I know that job you got leaves you so uninspired
When I come back and take you out to eat
You’re lying all dressed up with the  baby fast asleep
Go in the bathroom, put your make-up on
We’ll take that little brat of yours and drop her off at your Mom’s
I know a place where the dancing’s free
Hey Baby won’t you come with me?
Cause down the Shore everything’s all right
Me and my baby on a Saturday night
Nothing matters in this whole wide world, oh no,
When you’re in love with a Jersey Girl

  • Late In The Evening - Simon and Garfunkel

This song just oozes hot summer night vibes, helped along by the funky Latin drums and bass, with the most perfect horns you can imagine. Oh man, we want to get down. I dare you not to dance to this one.

This video from the definitive summer concert in central park. Seems like yesterday but it was a different era altogether. (Don’t they look so young?!) The Inky Jukebox likes this clip because you get to hear who’s in the band. Steve Gadd on drums: The Inky Jukebox knows every tiny nuance of that performance by heart.

  • Always The Love Songs – Eli Young Band

We used to pull off highway 249
Had a cool little place where we'd go hide on a Friday night
And get away from the city lights
We'd find a little wood and build a fire
Sonebody'd always bring a couple guitars
And we'd take turns singin' songs and watching it burn
We'd do "Ramblin' Man," "Proud Mary" and "American Band"
We'd be singin' at the top of our lungs

One of the most evocative and instantly recognizable opening lines of the last few years followed by some brilliant songwriting. We can actually smell that woodsmoke and see the sparks rise into the air.

  • Master Blaster – Stevie Wonder

Is it the horn section? The steel drums? The Hammond organ? The slow reggae beat? The lyric “hotter than July?” Yes. All of it.

  • Hillbilly Deluxe – Brooks & Dunn

Isn’t this how country boys roll? “Cruisin’ back and forth to the Tastee Freeze / Everywhere  you look all you see is / Hillbilly Deluxe, slick pick up trucks.” One of the best choruses around: roll down your windows and tap the car door, y’all. Features awesome back-up singers (reminiscent of early Rolling Stones, no?) and a banjo lick. This video is ridonkulous, but hey. This is the song The Inky Jukebox plays loud with the windows rolled down while waiting in a steamy field waiting to exit the parking after a show.

  • Follow Me – Uncle Kracker

This was a monster summer hit and proves that all you need is a guitar and a voice and a good song (and excellent rhythm and timing) to sneak into America’s heart. It follows the classic lines of a bee-bop tune, yet is distinctive for it’s oddly happy sound to tell a rather naughty story. Yet it is exactly this quality that makes it an ace summer song: it is a delicious puff of cotton candy.

  • Summer Nights – Rascal Flatts

“Let that Igloo cooler mark your piece of paradise.” Together with the ubiquitous red Dixie cup, nothing spells tailgate more than this iconic bit of Americana. Also, the phrase “y'all keep doing y’all’s thang” goes down well with the ladies in the concert crowd sporting Daisy Dukes and string bikini tops.

  • Ain’t Back Yet – Kenny Chesney

What do you do in the summer? Go to concerts. Chances are you’ve been to see King of Summer Kenny Chesney, and this song sums the experience up nicely. It also features a hot horn section. (Hmmm…we detect a pattern here…) and hand clapping for percussion. He rocks the straw hat.

  • Big Green Tractor – Jason Aldean

The opening riff of this song gives The Inky Jukebox chills and takes us straight back to last summer. The sexiest song about a John Deere product ever written. (Spoiler: he’s not singing about a piece of farm machinery.) “Just let me dust off the seat / Put your pretty little arms around me.” OK then.

  • Something Like That – Tim McGraw

According to the song, the object of McGraw’s affection had a suntan line and wore a miniskirt and red lipstick, but he had a barbeque stain on his white t-shirt. Bloody typical. An homage to summer love and a succinct definition of the difference between the sexes. In case anyone who first saw him on American Idol the other week and still didn’t quite understand how big this guy is: here you go. Exhibit A. If he didn’t haul this one out at a concert, there would be a riot. I swear. (Best sweat and nipples in country music.)

Have a good Memorial Day y'all. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Many Ways To Serve

Memorial Day USO Performances

Country music stars have always been avid supporters of the USO, and can often be found providing entertainment for our troops overseas when they are not back here entertaining us.

In honor of Memorial Day Weekend, here are some recent USO Tour perfomances by Inky Jukebox favorites filmed by soldiers.

"Performing for our men and women in uniform means more to me than I can put into words. Music is a powerful tool, it can transport you to another time and place, and connect you with loved ones. And that’s what this tour is all about - lifting spirits and delivering a touch of home." - Zac Brown

The Zac Brown Band open things up with the Star Spangled Banner in Iraq.

"I’ve been traveling with the USO since 2002, and every year I look forward to spending time with the men and women who serve this great country. When I get on stage and look out into a crowd of uniforms, it gives me a great sense of pride to know that I am giving back to them." - Toby Keith

The world’s best bar band, Montgomery Gentry, sings along with the crowd to “My Town” in Okinawa, Japan.

Kellie Pickler has some fun with a soldier in Iraq with "Red High Heels."

"The USO tours I’ve been part of have definitely been the highlight of my career and my life. It has been the most impactful, life-changing thing I’ve been able to do." - Kellie Pickler

Kid Rock brings some “Sweet Home Alabama” to Iraq.

"Performing for our men and women in uniform means more to me than I can put into words. Music is a powerful tool, it can transport you to another time and place, and connect you with loved ones. And that’s what this tour is all about - lifting spirits and delivering a touch of home." - Zac Brown

Trace Adkins delivers “Arlington” to Soldiers in Mosul, Iraq

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beam Me Up Scotty!

And The Winner Is…

The Inky Jukebox is happy to report that even though we were mostly wrong with our American Idol predictions all season long, we wanted Scotty to take the prize from the beginning — and he did! He completely messed up the singing of the crap winner’s song in lieu of hugging everyone in the Nokia Theater and weeping, but that was OK because at least Lauren didn’t break down bawling with disappointment.

We are also pleased to see the finalists get a prize from Ford more in keeping with the 122 MILLION votes cast for the finale alone: not a lousy Focus, but ANY FORD THEY WANT! Damn straight!

One of these?....

Or one of these?...

There was an endless parade of guest superstars, but The Inky Jukebox shall focus on just four.

One of the best things about having to slog through an entire season of Idol is watching the top four actually get to sing with their idols: the adoration was palpable in James’s thrill in performing with Judas Priest, though we think the audience might have been a little lost. The same is true of Scotty’s duet with Tim McGraw (best physique in music) for the eponymous “Live Like You Were Dying,” one of the very best songs ever written.

The Inky Jukebox hopes the folks at home who inexplicably are not familiar with this monster hit liked it. Check it out.

Lauren’s pairing with former Idol winner Carrie Underwood for "Before He Cheats" was less fortunate; next to her, Lauren looked large in her black softpants and t-shirt and uncoordinated and not as good a singer. Carrie, on the other hand, reminded us of what a really talented winner looks and sounds like.

We hate to have to do this, but a mention needs to be made of the spectacularly camp and tasteless Gaga performance. Stuck up a mountain in that get-up? What was that half-nekkid dude doing? Has she jumped the shark or have we?

To close the tenth season, here are The Inky Jukebox’s list of winners for the night.

Best Legs

Pia Toscano
Carrie Underwood
Haley Reinhart

Carrie Underwood by a country mile and a tan

Best Wearing of Leather

Rob Halford
Pia Toscano
Lady Gaga
Scotty McCreery

Rob Halford, obviously

Best Imitation of Tony Bennett

Tom Jones
Marc Anthony
Stefano Langone
Tony Bennett

Tom Jones! Separated at birth!

Best Blonde

Carrie Underwood
Scotty and Lauren’s teachers
Lady Gaga

The teachers! They’ve won themselves a car! And Ryan said they were hot!

Best Fat Bottomed Girl

Lauren Alaina
That chick from TLC

That chick from TLC! That was some gravelly voice, girlfriend.

Best Disappearing Act

The Pips
Lady Gaga
Lisa Lopes
Scotty’s voice

Best Stomach

TLC’s Chili
Steven Tyler
That dude Gaga was faux-fucking

Chili! “Nice abs” — Ryan Seacrest

Best Trophy

ANY Ford vehicle!
That object Scotty got he gave to James
Carrie Underwood

Shall I go with a Mustang or a jacked F-350?

Worst Trophy

Jack Black?
No, seriously?
With Casey?



Ladies and Gentlemen, The Inky Jukebox is delighted to find that Pittsburgh will be one of next season’s try-out venues. The Inky Jukebox will not be auditioning, alas, but we will be reporting from the scene!

A One-Man Garage Band

"Outlaws Like Me" Acoustic

Is this Justin Moore's own garage? There are trophies against the back wall, y'all.

Just posted: Justin Moore's sublime "Outlaws Like Me." The Inky Jukebox thanks The Valory Music Co. for making this available. It is the sort of thing that builds and rewards fans.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Everyone's A Winner!

Did They Make You Proud?

There can only be one reason why Ryan Seacrest broached the topic of Lauren’s shredded vocal chords on tonight’s American Idol: 1) there was a chance her voice would fail thus jeopardizing her chances of putting on a good show; 2) to hush the rumors that had been swirling all day (Haley will return to replace Lauren!); 3) it was a lowball attempt on behalf of the producers to handicap the show, because anything sounds good if you think the singer is overcoming some horrible injury.

The more eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that there were in fact three reasons listed above — this is because all three are valid and basically the same reason.

Why does any of this matter?

Because Lauren Alaina tore it up tonight, AT LAST. Girl was saving the good stuff for the end! She came out swinging on “Flat On The Floor,” hit Pam Tillis’s “Maybe It Was Memphis” out of the Nokia Theater (excellent choice, Carrie Underwood — it’s almost impossible to screw up that great song), and slayed the weepfest “Like My Mother Does” while actually hugging her Mom.

This is not to say that Scotty dropped the ball at all. His choice of the song Montgomery Gentry closes their show with, “Gone” will have been an enormously popular with his voters, and was an inspired selection, seeing that both he and Lauren are playing to the same country audience. To have chosen George Strait as his idol was smart thinking too; folks will respect that call-out to old-school country. His rendition of “Check Yes Or No” probably seemed very old-fashioned to a large portion of the viewers but it leant the 17 year-old some historical chutzpah. Sadly, the weakest performance of the night wasn’t due to Scotty’s lack of talent per se, but a lousy song: “Love You This Big” not only sounds rude to The Inky Jukebox but does not have a chorus that matches Scotty’s particular register or skills; he’s far better at the long slow deep drawl note than the high punch.

Both of these young people seemed remarkably composed (or was that the “medicine,” Lauren Alaina?). The Inky Jukebox is looking forward to seeing the extravaganza finale tomorrow night because Fox always brings out the big guns for it.

Who do we want to win? Either one will do just fine.

Justin Moore Announces Presale

Got Ammo?

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At long last! Here's a place to read a decent bio and get to hear a preview of the tracks off Moore's forthcoming album, Outlaws Like Me.

Hearing a studio version of a song you've only ever heard live is always tricky; the title track is far more produced and layered than The Inky Jukebox is used to, and we're not sure about the pause you can hear in the opening on this demo.

Still, folks have been waiting for "Guns" for a long long time: on June 21, this love song to the Second Amendment will be available to all!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Turn it on / And turn it up / And sing along

This Here’s Country Music, Y’all

One could argue that ALL country music records are concept albums: the concept being some aspect of rural life featuring the traditional instruments one expects from this genre.

But one rarely actually comes across an album whose conception and execution is so single-minded as Brad Paisley’s new one, This Is Country Music. The title IS the concept: it serves as a primer on what modern country is and has been and can be: it not only looks backwards and to the sides, but straight ahead too. The Inky Jukebox would go so far as to say it’s a love song to country music.

A concept album doesn’t just consist of a dozen or so separate songs centered around a theme (at least, not good ones); they are like mini symphonies in which certain musical and lyrical themes are introduced and echoed throughout the album to a specific end. Here, the melody to the title track serves as the coda that appears throughout. Because the title track is called “This Is Country Music,” it also acts as a chapter heading and neon signpost to indicate that THIS is what he’s talking about.

One can imagine the initial discussions for the architecture of this album: a list of several obvious topics or types of songs that exemplify the genre. If you look at the finished product, you can spot them, right down to the traditional spiritual “Life’s Railway To Heaven.”

Any Brad Paisley album can be broken down into two distinct parts for review: instrumental and technical virtuosity, and lyrical wittiness. (OK; his instrumental album is simply the former.) This album is no exception. Each song is meticulously crafted to present a new take on an old topic: what guys like to do; shit happens; how to love your wife; wishing you were an inanimate object a lady uses, etc. (See "Ticks.")

Paisley has created a niche for himself by singing about manly subjects with humor; “Camouflage” is this record’s nod to the yak-it-up song. He’s also pretty handy with a duet — here, the probable future single “Remind Me” with Carrie Underwood (with whom he has enjoyed excellent duets before) is a standout. Currently, the album is being promoted with his single “Old Alabama” which is a double-entendre made much of in his video, referring not only to the legendary band, but the state too. (Look closely for Brad's many cameos.)

Kicking the whole she-bang off was the title track, whose glorious back-end is a list of country songs any self-respecting music fan will know. It sounds like it was a fun song to write, and this can be said of all the songs, as the lyrics make sense in a simple and straightforward way.

Because this is Brad Paisley, Guitar God, he does include an instrumental track, cleverly titled “Eastwood,” featuring the man himself. It sounds like a Spaghetti Western, ha ha.

Even though this album could be the playlist for demonstrating what country music is, The Inky Jukebox would still like to sit around with all of those vinyl records scattered around on the floor, the needle on the record player getting plenty of action playing a bit of THIS and THIS and OH WAIT — THIS!

Paisley was set to kick off this year’s new tour at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, which would have been excellent as it’s sort of his hometown stadium, but alas, the gig was cancelled abruptly with no explanation and no particular date for when the “postponed” show will be re-scheduled (much to The Inky Jukebox’s dismay and disappointment.) His H2O tour of last year was one of the season’s highlights; the man truly earned his title of Entertainer of the Year.

In the meantime, we will have to be content with the record. He says it best:

It ain’t hip to sing about tractors, trucks
little towns, and mama
yeah that might be true.

But this is country music 
and we do.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Rapturous Encore

It Wasn't The End Of The World As We Know It

In order to prepare for their entire audience in New Jersey to be sucked up to Heaven in the Rapture at the stoke of 6 EST (or 9? that part was iffy), Sugarland, Little Big Town and Matt Nathanson changed their encore up a little.

Perhaps bringing back memories of Madonna's original "Just Like A Prayer" video was a tad too risky for such an occasion. Sugarland like to toss fellow Georgians REM into the mix wherever possible, so The Inky Jukebox appreciated hearing them take on this classic.

We're still here, and we feel fine.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

95 Million People Think This Is Country Music

American Idyll

The Inky Jukebox
wonders whether American Idol has morphed into Nashville Star with tonight's announcement of the two country contestants, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina making it to the finals? 

A staggering 95 million votes were cast — are that many people in the whole country? American Idol voting has its own biomagnification system whereby those who remain collect the votes of fans whose favorites go home. Either Haley's female fan base will collectively throw their weight behind Lauren, or Scotty's genuine appeal will steal them away (after all, if those voters were picking Haley, it means they were NOT voting for Lauren). 

The Inky Jukebox suspects that Scotty has been this season's vote leader all along, and we predict he will prevail next Wednesday. 

There are no losers at this stage. Still, it's a big win for country music whichever way you shake it. 

Ain't He Cute?

Five Questions for Justin Moore

From this interview, you would never guess what Justin Moore is like on stage. Here, he comes across as an articulate, careful, soft-spoken gentle soul who'd go weak at having to address a crowd. This is not so. On sage, he is a ferocious, swaggering man-beast singing the bollocks out of songs to do with guns, girls and God.

Here are The Inky Jukebox's five questions for Justin Moore:

1) When did you first realize you could sing better than your peers, and where did you practice?

2) Which artists have had the most influence on your style?

3) What pre-show rituals do you have, and how do you combat nerves?

4) Who would like most like to do a duet with?

5) And finally, what makes you grin like that?

American Idol Final Three

What Is And What Should Never Be: A Demonstration

The best thing about the American Idol Final Three is that we get to hear the contestants sing songs that they don’t choose. This is left to the professionals — who, if they are smart, toss in choices that are going to challenge the youngsters in ways they have not been so far.

This year, the pros were on their game.

Jimmy Iovine’s picks were designed to give us a taste of how these guys compare to current artists whose songs their fans know by heart.

Thompson Square are a husband / wife team whose song “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or What” is clearly the breakout wedding theme of the year. Having Scotty sing it gave him a chance to tickle the private parts of all of his girl fans by imagining he’s singing it to them.

The Inky Jukebox thought that Lauren actually did a good job with The Band Perry’s huge hit “If I Die Young,” so we could see how seamlessly her voice could be slipped into the lead singer’s, but we’re not sure about the song choice, or of the way in which it was justified; there is no “uplifting” angle to dying young if you’re as young as Lauren.

Does anyone else thing that Iovine’s choice of a Stevie Nicks song for Haley was creepy? (Look it up.) Either way, he shanked her with this one, and she did as bad a job with it as one could expect. Why? her singing style is not suited to it, she was clearly unfamiliar with the words, and Haley is too apt to copy what she knows of the performance to make it her own. Therefore, we are left comparing her to the original, which is incomparable.

The Inky Jukebox thinks that Jimmy Iovine is rooting for Scotty.

As for the judge’s picks, they were clearly going for genre stereotype to see how well the contestants live up to pigeonholing.

They gave Scotty a song he could not possibly have slayed because it was so far out of his range, but this was not a bad thing; it showed us what he was and wasn’t capable of. Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes In Me” was much too old a song (in terms of era and content) for 17 year-old Scotty, but he did his darndest with it. It made us pine for some old-time Kenny Rogers, back before he replaced most of his flesh with plastic.

Lauren got LeeAnn Womack’s “I Hope You Dance,” a hit well within her range and comfort zone, and one which she should already know by heart. Sure enough, she nailed it. What she did not nail was the frock: WTF!!! If the judges wanted to boost her with a softball choice, the wardrobe dept torpedoed it with that blue sparkly prom monstrosity. Also, what’s with the two-tone hair? Is that still popular where Lauren comes from?

Haley was awarded Alanis Morissette’s cracker “You Oughta Know” perhaps because it features angry-sounding shouty lyrics and they both have long hair that can be tossed about. Only, when Alanis sings it, she gives power and volume to the anger, while Haley just went with the shouting. How old was Haley when this song came out? Too young to have learned it’s nuance, we suspect. It would also have been good unpurged of the swearing and blowjob lyrics, but this is a kid's show, folks. 

Alanis doing it right with evil intent and Taylor Hawkins on drums

The Inky Jukebox thinks the judges are rooting for Lauren.

That being said, The Inky Jukebox also thinks that Haley is rooting for Haley with her “What Is And What Should Never Be” Zeppelin shocker. This was the best we’ve seen her and was memorable enough to keep her in the running.

Round One: Haley
Round Two: Scotty
Round Three: Lauren

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Did The Internet Kill The Radio Star?

It Ain't What It Used To Be

The Inky Jukebox has been trying out online radio stations and is happy to report that Clear Channel’s iheartradio delivers a high-quality product through its downloadable radio app. They offer 750+ stations that span the range of genres from Hit, Alternative, Rock, Hip-Hop/R&B, Adult, Latin, and Country.

The radio player has an easy to use interface that blends into the background nicely and offers a truly crisp sound. The Inky Jukebox is listening on a MacBook Pro and finds that even with the volume levels set at low to medium, it packs a punch.

We’re listening to Big Machine Radio, which, as can be expected, provides a steady stream of current and former Big Machine artists. Who are they? Currently the roster includes:

Taylor Swift
Rascal Flatts
Steel Magnolia
Jack Ingram
Trisha Yearwood
Edens Edge
Valentines Day

and under The Valory Music Co label:

Justin Moore
Brantley Gilbert

and under Republic Nashville:

The Band Perry
Eli Young Band
Martina McBride
Sunny Sweeney

The player can be downloaded direct from Big Machine at

Did the internet kill the radio? Nope. It just made it easier to find. What killed the radio was the conglomeration of independent stations into megalith companies like Clear Channel. If you want quirkier stuff, go to podcasts, college radio, YouTube and actual shows.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Modern Sounds?

"Country Western" Wha? 

In the year nineteen hundred and sixty-two, a young fella by the name of Ray Charles Robinson put out a two-part record entitled Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Within three months it had sold over half a million copies; it has since gone on to be regarded as one of the most significant recordings in American music history.

From Wikipedia

You may have heard of the song “I Can’t Stop Loving You” which first appeared on this album. Great, ain’t it?

The Inky Jukebox draws your attention to this because every now and then someone (usually in an attempt to indicate his or her disapproval of the genre) refers to the music that comes out of Nashville as “country western.” The last time this term was remotely relevant was probably 1962. By the 1970s it had already become passé and the catch-all phrase “country music” took over as the term that encompasses the wide range of sub-genres collectively known as “country.”

Certainly, this term is insufficient and is as likely to refer to mainstream pop as it is to rockabilly, bluegrass, and honky-tonk. The only people who should be able to use the term “country western” without irony are those artists who were Opry members back in 1962. For everyone else, it makes you sound like a tourist from one of those nations where, inexplicably, it is still au fait to say it (England and Japan, I’m talking about you).

Still, The Inky Jukebox can’t help thinking that English friends suspect the genre is populated by guys and gals dressed in fringed shirts, rhinestones and ten gallon hats singing about tractors and stomping their feet to fiddles while plunking away at washboards. It ain’t so.

The next time someone you know calls what you love “country western music,” The Inky Jukebox suggests turning the other cheek and humming a few bars of “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Then giving them the middle finger.

That’s What’d I Say.

Scotty McCreery Shocker!

Top Three!

At the Top Three mark, American Idol sends its contestants home for a bit of hometown love. Future Nashville star (if not Idol winner) Scotty McCreery got the surprise of his life when performing for the crowd when his idol Josh Turner crept up behind him. (Check the 1:45 mark)


Justin Moore Plays Brown Chicken, Brown Cow

Shameless Beefcake 

In order to whip his fans into a pre-album-drop frenzy, Justin Moore’s peeps played a little show-and-tell on facebook. Here, let them explain it:

Though most of the required 288,800 fans approved of the ploy, some were a tad piqued about being made to feel like punters at a titty bar with wads of singles in their grubby hands. To these people The Inky Jukebox says: Purleese. If you want your music unsullied by visuals, stop reading facebook fan pages and bust out your radio. You know, it’s the thing with the dials gathering dust in your basement.

A mere 5 hours later, we were rewarded with this:

 Which was very popular indeed.

As we approach the June 21st release date, will Justin be unbuttoning his shirt for us? If we pre-order, can he please unbuckle his jeans?


Little Big Town A Bit Hit In A Big Little Town

Little Big Town at Burgettstown, PA, May 15 2011

…Little Big Town isn’t a huge mainstream act that familiar to a zillion people is beyond The Inky Jukebox’s comprehension. Oh, wait…we do actually know why. It’s because in America there is a strict rule when it comes to music: all of it must be squashed into little pigeonholes and only played exclusively on that pigeonhole’s radio station or TV channel so that only the demographic targeted by that station’s sponsors ever hear it.

Little Big Town is a 70’s throwback band who really have the chops to live up to the hype. They sound a lot like a mix between Fleetwood Mac (whom they openly acknowledge as models) and ABBA (that other quartet featuring two boys and two gals, a blonde and a brunette, who sing mesmerizing harmonies). None of them is a hardship to look at, and all of them carry their weight when it comes to delivering the vocal goods, either as leads or backups.

This year, they are touring tucked into the wing of Sugarland’s Incredible Machine tour, though they really should be headlining their own gigs. They have plenty of material to put on a two-hour show of hits, so it feels a bit like a cheat to only get them for an hour while the crowd is busy buying nachos, beer and t-shirts.

At Pittsburgh’s First Niagara Pavilion they truly had their work cut out for them, playing to a half-empty hillside of the most bedraggled rednecks you can imagine, who were only a couple of hours into a cold evening standing in the pouring rain. For those who sang along to every word, they brightened the dismal evening considerably.

Karen Fairchild’s star turn on the slow bluesy ballad “Shut Up Train” lived up to every expectation, while her partner in crime, Kimberley Schlapman rocked what looked like a pair of tight leather pants, boots and a flared jacket (very rock ‘n’ roll). The Inky Jukebox has seen Little Big Town up close and can assure you that this foursome don’t look like you and me. They look every inch the celebrities they are.

By the time they hit their first smash, “Boondocks,” with its delicious a cappella overlapping coda, the crowd had grown and joining them with raucous abandon.

Because they have collaborated so often with their pals in Sugarland, we all expected a little something-something, which came at the end of Sugarland’s encore: the catchy “Just Like A Prayer.”

Go see them and buy seats right up close.