CD review: Sugarland's 'Live on the Inside'

Duo creates a rewarding ‘thank you’ for its listeners

After years of creating thoughtful music and struggling to make ends meet in a business that seems to reward mediocrity, the three original members of Sugarland -- Jennifer Nettles, Kristian Bush and Kristen Hall -- made a pact to consciously construct an album's worth of songs geared specifically for the mainstream.

Well, it worked.

In the five years since Sugarland left the Atlanta area music scene for the bright lights of Nashville, few other artists have managed to make as big a splash on country radio or charts.

Hall left the group after the first album. However, Nettles and Bush have carved their own niche and kept the hits coming, all according to plan.

In what is basically a gift to its fans, Sugarland released a budget-priced CD/DVD (exclusively available at Wal-Mart) of an incendiary live performance filmed at Lexington's Rupp Arena. Packed with the band's hits and a few surprises, Nettles and Bush give it their all in "Live on the Inside" and seem to have a great time doing so. Mixing in a few Georgia-centric tunes such as "Nightswimming" by R.E.M. and "Love Shack" by the B-52s, and touching on such far-flung influences as Beyonce and Kings of Leon, the duo prove that what is called country music today doesn't have borders, and the fans eat it up.

Technologically perfect, the concert footage is filled with fast-paced editing and camera work that captures the charismatic and photogenic Nettles working the crowd while Bush seems content to play Oates to her Hall, or Teller to her Penn. Not that his contributions are qualitatively lesser, but it is pretty obvious who is the focal point.

With only five tracks duplicated between the CD and the DVD, Sugarland gives its loyal fans a well-deserved "thank you" and a big plateful of musical food for the masses.

CD/DVD Review

Sugarland. "Live on the Inside"

Mercury Records. 10 tracks on CD, 16 tracks on DVD

Grade: A