Sugarland

Bigger

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AllMusic Review by

Sugarland had good reasons to sit out much of the 2010s, chief among them being an August 2011 tragedy when their stage collapsed during their set at the Indiana State Fair, killing seven people. A year later, the group entered a hiatus that stretched out for six years -- a time that was long enough for a few generations of country-pop to pass, allowing the duo's sunny perspective to seem fresh again. Bigger, their long-awaited return, does indeed deliver on its titular promise to be a grand, majestic album, but emotions are not lost in its skyscraper sweep. Often, the originals by Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush -- they wrote everything save "Babe," a 2012 Red leftover given to them by their old friend Taylor Swift -- contain a questioning core, as if they know that they can't return with a record that is nothing but a good time. Bigger does indeed offer more than its share of big, bright hooks, all packaged in a production to go down smoothly, but between Nettles' slyly shaded, impassioned voice and the duo's complete embrace of both their now old-fashioned country-pop and their advancing age, the album seems human. This vulnerability may be worn on the sleeves of the sentimental yet sharp "Mother" and the acoustic epic "Tuesday's Broken," but it's evident throughout Bigger, which is why the record is an impressive comeback. Sonically, it gleams like prime Sugarland, but beneath that sheen Nettles and Bush seem mature, both musically and emotionally, in a way they never have before.

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