Racal Flatts's eighth album is called Changed. How so? The new record puts the trio in more rootsy territory than their previous effort, Nothing Like This. But, that said, it's hardly a departure.
Changes for the Better
Right off the bat, Rascal Flatts come out strong with the opening track, "Changed." Frontman Gary LeVox sings about how he "backslid my way to that place / where souls gets lost." Acoustic guitar strums build to the heavenly harmonies of bandmates Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney. That's more than appropriate for this born-again tale.
"Banjo," the album's lead-off single, features lyrics about having "had enough of this concrete jungle" and retreating to the backwoods until he can "hear the banjo." So it's a little strange that the guitar fuzz drowns out the banjo picking that gets the tune going. At any rate, such ironies don't make the song any less infectious.
Lady Antebellum's low-slung country gets a run for its money on "Hot In Here," as LeVox sings about relaxing in his vehicle with his girl on a hot day. Clothes come off as drive shifts to park. Along with "Drunk on You," from Luke Bryan's Tailgates & Tanlines, and "Woods," from Dierks Bentley's Home, this is a Barry White song for those who prefer a blanket in the woods to a bed with satin sheets and a black light.
Rascal Flatts are the exemplars of the harmony-layered, melancholy-infused country ballad. "She's Leaving," "Come Wake Me Up," and "Let It Hurt" express the same sentiment with varying levels of regret.
Breaking up doesn't seem that hard to do on "She's Leaving," the most jaunty of the bunch. It's built around lines like this: "She's got a bucket of tears goin' drop, drip, drop / And that ring on her finger is comin' off, off, off."
"Come Wake Me Up" commences with Richard Marx arpeggios and the line "I can usually drink you right off of my mind / But I miss you tonight." Quiet pianos also supply the universal language of heartache in "Let It Hurt," redeemed by a flare for storytelling that's often saved the group from the adult contemporary Hall of Shame. Such talents come to the fore on the homesick closer "A Little Home."
Hitting the Wall
How many ways are Rascal Flatts able to approach the same subject matter? Not many, I'm afraid. The love songs "Lovin' Me" ("You smile that smile and it feels like a brand new morning"), "Sunrise" ("one step, one breath, one smile at a time"), and "Hurry Baby" ("Every second feels just like a year / Every moment you're not here / Is a lifetime of lonely") tend to blur together.
This sameness is accentuated on the album's "Deluxe Edition," which features four extra songs, and which no one should feel compelled to buy. The working man's tune "Friday" is more depressing than celebratory, "Fall Here" is the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" with the blood sucked out, and in "Right One Time" the clichés come out sounding more tired than usual. If there's a keeper, it's the bluegrass-y "Next to You, Next to Me."
Since the record company is intent on selling these songs as added value, I've incorporated their quality into my star rating for Changed.
Best Songs on Changed
Track List for Changed
3. "Hot in Here"
4. "Come Wake Me Up"
5. "She's Leaving"
6. "Let It Hurt"
7. "Lovin' Me"
8. "Hurry Baby"
10. "Great Big Love"
11. "A Little Home"
12. "Friday" (deluxe edition)
13. "Fall Here" (deluxe edition)
14. "Right One Time" (deluxe edition)
15. "Next to You, Next to Me" (deluxe edition)
Release Date: April 3, 2012