Rascal Flatts Bring It Home With ‘Back To Us'
Adam Flores | Senior Writer
Many acts come and go within the Nashville city limits, better known as Music City. Home of such traditions as the legendary Grand Ole Opry, The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and historic Ryman Auditorium, these urban landmarks are among the many symbols attesting to the rural message rooted in country music.
Within the framework of the current country music scene, meet Rascal Flatts. Their latest epic, “Back To Us,” released on May 19, continues to define the standard of contemporary country. Incorporating a myriad of influences and tapping into the Music City song bank abundant with Music Row songwriters and musicians, the new record continues their commitment to signature songcraft and production.
Rascal Flatts’ core trio, frontman Gary LeVox, bassist-vocalist Jay DeMarcus and guitarist-vocalist Joe Don Rooney, return to what they identify was the foundation of their eponymous 2000 debut album which emphasized strong vocal arrangements gracing each track.
“I think we got back the passion we had on the first one, just really focusing on harmonies like they were on the first album–kind of in your face. The vocal part of what we do is really what put us on the map in the first place,” LeVox said in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
“Yours If You Want It,” the set’s lead single and exposition, is a testament to the vocal recipe the trio is best regarded. The accompanying music video saw them in the same greasy spoon setting where they posed for their first photo shoot back in the late ‘90s.
Appropriately titled, the new LP serves to symbolize on many different levels, themes of returning to their roots and rediscovering home.
As a band that has nothing to prove at this point in their career and a long list of music accolades to their credit, finding solace at this point in their career is an affordable luxury and vantage point for the veteran “Bless the Broken Road” group.
“That’s a really nice place to be and it sort of takes the pressure off. We can gather some songs we believe in and do it for the love again, instead of having all this immense pressure to have a hit and sell millions of records,” DeMarcus said.
With this in mind, the overall tone and balance of “Back To Us” is a little more relaxed setting itself in a somewhat different direction than past compilations with no pressure of trying to create that hit song. Contemplative tracks such as “I Know You Won’t” with its lush orchestral backdrop and the emotionally climactic “Are You Happy Now (feat. Lauren Alaina)” demonstrate the band’s willingness to take us on a dark road exploring life’s uncertainties.
The electronically enhanced “Dance,” “Kiss You While I Can” with its infectious, carefree sing-along spirit and the grungy, Southern grit of “Roller Rink” capture concepts of closeness and contentment in love and longing.
The album ends with the perfect, Broadway-type show closer, the anthemic “Our Night To Shine” as DeVox belts out, “This is our time / Our night to shine / Oh take my hand, hold on tight / Don’t look back to the morning light,” signifying taking chances and securing trust in a relationship.
The new disc is also offered in a “Deluxe Version” with three additional tracks: “Hands Talk,” “Thieves” and “Roller Rink.” What’s unique is that unlike other deluxe editions offered by artists where it is customary to tag the original track list with bonus material, Rascal Flatts inserted the extra studio material into ideal spaces within the core 10-track collective to preserve the sonic flow, themes, and energy of the entire album.
“Back To Us” is a welcome addition to any country music playlist offering a generous helping of downhome, contemporary flavors and goodness with an emotional element taking the listener to different, but familiar places in life. Rascal Flatts continues their musical journey on life’s highway bringing us another stellar collection of the best Nashville and country music have to offer.