Thomas Rhett has always straddled the line between country and pop, but for his new album he’s ditched the electronic drum beats, gold lamé jacket and hi-top sneakers he’s gravitated towards previously in favour of a flannel shirt, cowboy boots and a more reflective down-home sound which fits completely with where he currently finds himself as a person.
Coming in at only 34 minutes long and filled with pedal steel, banjo, fiddle and mandolin, the 11 songs are a slice of country joy, and to my mind the best album of his career. The more country sound is definitely helped by having his dad – a country star in his own right, as a writer on over half the tracks on the album.
All the usual country clichés are present as you’d expect – cold beer, trucks, fake IDs, name checking artists such as Hank Williams and Eric Church (who gets two shout outs in two different songs) but this is a more grown up, ‘Dad country’ version of TR as he laments a lost love (‘Want It Again’), the loss of a best friend (‘Heaven Right Now’) and laying down the rules for anyone who wants to take his daughters out (‘To The Guys That Date My Girls’), which verges more on the ‘please treat them with respect’ side of the spectrum rather than the humorous way it’s dealt with by Rodney Atkins in ‘Cleaning My Gun’.
‘Where We Grew Up’ and ‘Growing Up’ are both strolls through TR’s life, moving from his high school days right up to the present day with his wife. In truth the album probably only needed one of them but they’re both perfectly good songs full of the aforementioned clichés of Jack & Coke, tailgates, bibles and Jesus.
‘What’s Your Country Song’, the first song from his album that was released to country radio is an upbeat number featuring a whole lot of slide guitar which namechecks famous country songs, including his fathers mid-90’s hit ‘That Ain’t My Truck’. Sonically similar to Old Dominion’s ‘Song For Another Time’, this is a real feel-good ‘turn it up, raise your cup’ anthem.
‘More Time Fishin’ has TR wondering if the rat race is really worth it, wishing he’d spent…well, you get the idea. The song ends with a very similar whistling solo to the one that opens up his previous hit ‘Crash & Burn’.
The title track is a gorgeous song full of country instrumentation that explains how he’s come to be in the headspace he finds himself in, digging out the old pair of boots he’d not worn in years and ditching LA to spend time building fires while watching sunsets with his wife at his home.
There’s a noticeable change of pace as we move towards the end of the album, ‘Put It On Ice (ft. HARDY)’ is an up-beat party song that could have come straight from a Cole Swindell album, while ‘Blame It On A Backroad’ is a song that’d sound right at home on one of Aaron Watson’s recent albums, replete with a sumptuous fiddle solo.
The album is rounded off by harmonica-filled ‘Ya Heard’, with Rhett being grateful that his prayers were answered.
This is the strongest TR album to date, and with him not releasing Side B until later in the year it gives us plenty to look forward to. Roll on the Autumn!