Good Things Never Changed
- Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Artist: Rascal Flatts
Label: Big Machine Records
Eight studio albums in thirteen years means that Rascal Flatts hasn't taken much time off, but the multi-million selling country act shows no real signs of wear and tear on Changed. Lead singer Gary LeVox can still do just about anything with his high register voice, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney are adding an increasingly thick layer of guitar and vocal talent, and outside writers clearly love submitting their strongest material to such a finely tuned hit-making machine.
Changed begins with a strikingly spiritual moment. The opening title track, a soaring ballad about moving past personal mistakes and transgressions, first looks to baptism as the key to transformation: I came up out of the water, raised my hands up to the Father.
Such depth is quickly tempered with novelty on "Banjo," a rollicking anthem about hopping in the truck, skipping town, and taking the back roads where you go and you go and you go and you go and you go until you hear banjo. It's pitch-perfect corny country fun.
"Hot in Here" is well-crafted pop crossover material just in time for summer, a song that captures the way a guy feels around a pretty girl. "Come Wake Me Up" is Rascal Flatts at its best, a slow-building, almost waltzing showcase for LeVox's pure instrument that tells a cinematic story of romantic heartbreak. Similar love-stinks subject matter is emphasized to equal effect on "Let It Hurt."
Yes, Changed is a somewhat heavier hearted record than its predecessor Nothing Like This, but even the breakup tracks find levity. "She's Leaving" has that same fun rock feel the band captured on its cover of "Life Is a Highway." And there's an Eagles-like breeziness to the simple all-is-right-with-the-world "Lovin' Me."
Later tracks "Hurry Baby" and "Sunrise" pale in comparison to the set's standouts, but Changed finishes strong, first with the self-produced, live-sounding "Great Big Love" and finally on the heart-tugging "A Little Home," where DeMarcus and Rooney take some lead vocal lines to great effect. The latter could join "God Bless the Broken Road" among the trio's most beloved tracks.
To that degree, Rascal Flatts ultimately steps up its game here, getting more involved and broadening its talents, all the while giving fans the emotions and entertainment they seek. Changed we can believe in.
*This Review First Published 4/11/2012
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