In many ways, the idea of being changed is appropriate for Rascal Flatts at this point in their career. When their longtime label Lyric Street Records shut its doors in Spring 2010, Rascal Flatts quickly partnered with current label home Big Machine Records and released the album, Nothing Like This, by that Thanksgiving. Throw in a management switch and that’s a lot to go through in a relatively short period of time. With their new project, Changed, now in stores, the group sounds refreshed and at home in their new surroundings.
Produced in partnership with Dan Huff (Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban), Changed is an 11-song collection big on tempo and classic Rascal Flatts power. The first single “Banjo,” currently Top 5 at radio, features flowing banjo surrounded by meaty, back home electric guitar riffs as lead singer Gary LeVox sings, You gotta go deep, way on back / Cross a few creeks and a couple little shacks. Gary’s strong voice and ability to reach high into his melodies comes through with almost hypnotic precision. On the piano based power ballad, “Come Wake Me Up,” his emotive singing conveys the pain as he shifts to a soaring chorus, singing, Tonight your memory burns like a fire / With every one it grows higher and higher in swaying ¾ time. Bassist Jay DeMarcus takes opportunities here in the verse to add a moody undercurrent that gives additional depth to the song.
All three members of Rascal Flatts turn in some of their finest performances on Changed. Guitarist Joe Don Rooney is allowed to run free on many songs, including the album-opening title track. A power ballad detailing redemption, Joe Don’s fluid guitar solos take the song to new heights, while Gary sings with passion, Here I am, changed. On “Hurry Home,” a mid-tempo pop-leaning ballad, tight textured harmonies from all three members in the chorus provide lush layers as Gary leads them singing, I swear that this not kissing you, missing you, has got me going crazy.
Rascal Flatts displays a renewed energy on the album, and nothing quite captures this like standout track “She’s Leaving.” A thick rhythm section, stomping guitars and intricate acoustic interplay drive the pounding song before a quick ringing chorus, Should’ve done this, should’ve done that / Should’ve seen it comin’ / Guess you don’t see nothin’ when you’re runnin’ round. The song is lean and mean, leaving nothing extraneous as they drive it home, and it pretty much has ‘hit’ written all over it with its undeniably catchy hooks.
Themes of transition rise to the surface throughout Changed. On “Let It Hurt,” a dramatic piano-based ballad, Gary implores those suffering to give their pain due time to process. Over the steady beat of “Sunrise,” Gary sings, We’re gonna change your life one sunrise at a time, when freeing a woman from a bad relationship. As evident here and in the empowering closing song “A Little Home,” dealing with the issues oftentimes leads to a better place. Just ask Rascal Flatts.
Key Tracks – “She’s Leaving,” “Sunrise,” “Come Wake Me Up,” “Great Big Love”