By Ivory Jeff Clinton Jessica Herndon Joey Bartolomeo Chuck Arnold and RANDY VEST
Updated September 26, 2011 12:00 PM

Lady Antebellum

Own the Night |


First things first: There’s nothing on Lady Antebellum’s third album that can compete with “Need You Now.” The crossover smash that won four Grammys last February may well be one of those once-in-a-career songs. But once you get past needing another “Need You Now,” there’s plenty to enjoy on Own the Night. There’s a tender wistfulness to tunes like “Dancin’ Away with My Heart” and an easy breeziness to ditties like “Singing Me Home.” While Lady A continues to own the masses with cuts like the pop ballad “Just a Kiss,” the Top 10 first single, country purists may think they’re about as Nashville as Lady Gaga. Indeed, “Friday Night” is a cheesy attempt at an arena rocker, while the string-laden “Wanted You More” suffers from overproduction. But country comes home to roost on the two best tracks: the mandolin-laced “We Owned the Night” and “Cold as Stone,” on which Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott turn heartache into bittersweet harmony.

George Strait

Here for a Good Time



Three decades into a phenomenally successful career, George Strait never phones it in. He infuses his latest with the same sincerity and warmth that he brought to his 1981 debut, Strait Country. It helps that he has some top-notch tunes, many of which were cowritten with longtime collaborator Dean Dillon and Strait’s own son Bubba. The title track is a party-hearty honky-tonker, while “House Across the Bay” joins Strait’s ever-growing canon of heartbreak ballads. Best of all is the closer, “I’ll Always Remember You,” a touching love letter to the fans who have stuck by Strait for 30 years.