Little Big Town – Nightfall (Capitol Nashville Records)

Frequently pilloried for occupying country’s poppier ground, Little Big Town might not be the coolest band on the planet.

But Nightfall proves they’re still one of the best.

Karen Fairchild, Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman and Jimi Westbrook are renowned for dreamy vocal harmonies set against hip-swinging, sugar-sweet melodies.

And that radio-friendly sound has driven the endearing quartet into arenas and stadiums across North America.

But Little Big Town can still cause quite a stir – and kick proverbial ass – when the mood is right.

Sugar Coat offers an incisive dose of reality and cuts deep into the psyche of a band that’s built on certain expectations.

The brass section underpinning party-starter Wine, Beer, Whiskey is wholly unexpected and hilariously upbeat.

And Over Drinking wouldn’t sound out of place on a Brothers Osborne B-side or slipped into a set by The Cadillac Three.

The nods to Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell will appeal to those music lovers still pouring over soft rock’s 70s songbook.

But Little Big Town are very much a band of the 2020s and their keen sense of what makes the perfect pop country album is always in evidence.

Nightfall might not be a new dawn as far as this peerless quartet is concerned.

But its mix of polished perfection and gritty introspection casts a shadow over the work of so many inferior wannabes.

Pilloried? Maybe. Peerless? Quite possibly.