In an an industry where an artist is lucky to have a good run of four to five years, vocal trio Rascal Flatts have managed to not only last that long but more than double that amount as they work on making their second decade as a trio as strong as their first. With that in mind the duo has also experienced quite a lot of change the past couple of years. First, their only record label home, Lyric Street Records, closed just as last album Nothing Like This was set to hit the market and the trio also hired new management. These kinds of changes could’ve shaken a band not as committed to their craft as Rascal Flatts but they persevered with a lot of success with their partnership with Big Machine Records and the Platinum sales of Nothing Like This.
After all of that upheaval and change, it’s no surprise that the trio’s new album is called Changed. While much has changed over the years for the group and their behind-the-scenes stuff certainly changed last year, one thing has remained constant. The trio’s ability to pick and perform songs that strike a chord with their fans. Songs from their catalog like “I Won’t Let Go,” “I’m Moving On” and “What Hurts The Most,” show off their tender, vulnerable side while hits like “Me and My Gang” and “Fast Cars And Freedom” show off the bands playful side, a side that they visit on Changed’s spirited lead single “Banjo.” year record label home Lyric Street Records closed down right when they were readying the release of 2011′s Nothing Like This and on top of that release, the trio let go of their long-time management team.
Some fans had grown “saddened” by Rascal Flatts perceived change in direction, a change to a more pop-leaning sounds as their career has moved on but in all realities, Rascal Flatts have ALWAYS been a pop-leaning country band. While pop-leaning, they’ve never abandoned their country roots, even if they’ve explored some interesting sounds on songs like this album’s likely single “She’s Leaving.” Other interesting spirited tracks from the album include “Sunrise” and “Great Big Love.”
The tender and vulnerable side of the band is showcased on the title track of Changed, a song that showcases the trio’s trademark harmonies and it’s a song about redemption through faith, a song that likely will not only become a huge radio hit for Rascal Flatts in the country market but also the Christian market. Pretty piano ballad “Come Wake Me Up” was written by three nordic writers and Sean McConnell and it is a trademark RF power ballad while another strong piano ballad “Let It Hurt” shows more emotion from the trio. The standard version of the album closes out with “A Little Home,” the kind of strong, emotive ballad that the band does better than perhaps any other band. It is subdued and not overblown like some of their ballads can get and also features a beautiful, mandolin-based melody with steel guitars and fiddles never too far into the mix. This song feels like the knock-out hit of the album and no doubt should get released (it also would be the first non-holiday track to feature lead vocals from all three members).
The bonus tracks on the album are four tracks self-produced by Rascal Flatts themselves, including the power ballad “Fall Here,” the driving “Right One Time,” the Drive-time week-end capper “Friday” and a cover of Shenandoah’s “Next To You, Next To Me.” These last four songs showcase a band that really could be producing their records by themselves (Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus have produced other artists before). Perhaps the next record they’ll do that.
When it’s all said and done, Changed represents the continuation of a new chapter for the trio in their career and while the songs on the album don’t represent the “change” some critics and some fans may have hoped for, what they have done is provide their loyal set of fans and other country fans a strong, consistent album of radio-ready material and something that can compete with the bands chompin’ at their feet to take their place as the #1 band in country music.