There has been a recent trend in country music when it comes to nearly acoustic singles. In 2007 Sugarland gave us “Stay” while 2010 was all about Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me.” This year we’ve already seen Kenny Chesney score a hit with the fantastic “You and Tequila” which features Grace Potter and a very toned down production. Thanks to Little Big Town, I think we’ve found a song that possibly eclipses them all.
“Shut Up Train” is pure brilliance from start to finish. Written by Hillary Lindsey, Chris Tompkins, and Luke Laird, the song tells the story of a woman who is reminded of her heartache each time a train passes by during the night. “Shut up train I’m trying to sleep, can’t you show me a little sympathy, this is the only time I can get any peace, so shut up train,” pleads the narrator as she achingly begs the passing train to just “shut up.” After a few failed attempts at begging and pleading for the train to stop, she sadly stops fighting and simply tells the train: “you win.”
When it comes to singles, Karen Fairchild hasn’t been given the same amount of opportunities to take the lead vocals, but when she does there’s a good chance the song will be an artistic peak for the group (“Little White Church,” “Fine Line”). “Shut Up Train” is no different. Fairchild delivers the heart breaker of a song with such emotion and sincerity by leaving behind any vocal tricks in favor of a more raw, simple performance. As is the case with any LBT song, the lead vocal is always backed up by a trio of brilliant harmonies that never overshadow the lead track. In this case it’s Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet, and Kimberly Schlapman who deliver those pure and understated harmonies to perfection.
Normally I’m not a big fan of electric guitars intruding on a nearly all-acoustic production, but here the guitars enhance the song and help to make the song more radio friendly, which hopefully means this song will have a chance at country radio. Whether or not radio will warm up to “Shut Up Train” like it has to other songs performed in the same vein has yet to be seen. But, nevertheless, “Shut Up Train” is, in my opinion, the best single of 2011.