Rascal Flatts - Rewind

Big Machine Records

Now I realise that when I mention Rascal Flatts, some of you reading this might cringe because that whole modern Nashville country music thing just doesn’t swing for many music fans in 2014, but to close your mind and discredit an act that is this good just ain’t right. As the best-selling country vocal group of the past decade, Rascal Flatts have sold over 22 million albums and over 28 million digital downloads since their musical debut in 2000. It has become cool for critics and other assorted experts to diss this earnest, hardworking band since it has entered the platinum-selling arena. But this latest album firmly squashes any and all quibbling with its catchy songs meshed with lyrics that are as clever and intelligent as any lesser-selling piece of ‘art.’ In the end, the public has the final word. The smart money is on Rascal Flatts to chalk up more gold and platinum discs.

Lead singer Gary LeVox, bassist Jay DeMarcus and guitarist Joe Don Rooney have always demonstrated excellent taste when it comes to selecting song material, and they maintain their high standards here. Let me emphatically state that the vocals, musical arrangements or even the song material, in the main, isn’t country music as I know it. But what is regarded as country music in 2014 is far removed from the music that I grew up with, which was way different to the music my parents enjoyed. All music has to progress and move ahead with the times. Failure to do so will result in stagnation and a slow death.  

I didn’t care too much for the opening Payback, and I was  fearing a collection of songs that wouldn’t connect with me, but as soon as the second, and title, track started I was hooked in. A rolling ballad with smooth vocals and catchy lyrics, augmented by inventive keyboard work, this is the group’s current single that is sitting high in the country top ten. You can usually rely on Marcus Hummon to come up with a song with a different angle, and his co-write, I Have Never Been To Memphis, is a clever look at a promising new relationship. Gary’s strong lead vocals, along with the richly textured harmonies, create the group’s distinctive sound that is heard throughout this album enriched by stunning and forceful musical arrangements that continually hook you in. I expected Riot to be a dynamic rock-styled song, yet it opens softly to acoustic guitars and strings as the song unfolds to a bridge of electric guitar underpinned by Gary’s steely vocal. Night Of Our Lives is a gently rhythmic look back at the first taste of teenage romance with images of those fumbling first steps of discovery and then the inevitable parting as young lives move on. It’s good to know that country music today still adheres to the tradition of songs with stories, rather than just June-moon love ditties. There’s more than enough songs here that are real keepers on an enjoyable album that at all times maintains the kind quality that Rascal Flatts have become renowned for.