Sound — 6
Rascal Flatts was originally signed to Disney's label, Lyric Street, in 1999 and released their debut album in 2000. From that time they have built up an immense fan base in the world of country music as well as pop music. Their sound from the beginning has been very polished and produced country with a lot of pop and southern rock elements mixed in - at the same time they have used small teams of songwriters on most of their albums which has resulted in a high quality of songs on each release. "Rewind" is no different, but instead maybe "more-so" what the band has done previously. Several songs on the album could just as easily have been recorded by Pharrel Williams or Justin Timberlake if you remove the country twang, the banjos and accents and such. Just making that observation. The deluxe version of the album seventeen tracks and clocks in at around sixty-two minutes. The title track, "Rewind," was released as the first single from the album in January 2014.
The album opens up with "Payback" which has a neat little guitar riff that sounds kind of like a teasing chant of "na-na na-na boo boo" and will definitely remind you that Joe Don Rooney is an awesome guitarist, despite the very commercial and pop nature of their music. The title track "Rewind" has an interesting acoustic guitar part going on in the verses and a neat little groove going on with the percussion - and it is doing that trendy thing in country music right now where it explores nostalgia in the form of a love song. "I Have Never Been to Memphis" has a point, I'm sure, but I'm not exactly sure what it is - is he saying Memphis is horrible but he would even go there to be with his girl? Or is Memphis just an arbitrary location picked for its significance to country blues? "DJ Tonight" is a straight up pop song that isn't even trying to disguise itself as country. "Powerful Stuff" is another track to remind you that Rooney is an interesting guitarist - even some of the little flourishes and touches he puts in songs shows a strong sense of musicality even if they don't display a virtuosity with guitar. "Riot" is one of the more mediocre songs on the album. "Night of Our Lives" has a really slick finger-picked intro and verses and is kind of traveling down that nostalgia road. "I Like the Sound of That" has a nice little acoustic thing going on, but the line "you sing along with some Timberlake bumping" loses me. "Aftermath" has a simple little melody that carries this song. "I'm on Fire" is more of a "foot-stomping" type of love song - something unique to country music, or possibly a little bit like a country version of "Bad Girlfriend." "Life's a Song" is a piano song, and plays a little bit off of nostalgia. "Honeysuckle Lazy" has a muted guitar riff, not very country-like, but the vocals throw in some extra twang to make up for it. The chorus has some fairly gritty guitar tones going on. "The Mechanic" is another song that I personally feel like Rooney shines because it goes back to really showing his musicality. The actual lyrics are supposed to be a love song, but it kind of goes a little bit into the realm of the ridiculous to me. "Compass" is about how the singer will "lead you home." "Wildfire" is one of those songs about how country living is so great - and while I can appreciate the imagery it uses in the lyrics the song itself doesn't really grab me. "She Must Like Broken Hearts" has banjo and wailing blues electric guitar going on. Earlier I said a song was kind of like a country version of "Bad Girlfriend," but really this song fits that a lot better. The album closes out with "Bring the Family" which is another country living song, but with lyrics like "do what we do like we do" and "feel the music bounce baby bounce baby" alongside lyrics like "take your shoes off" and "we're burning down the barn again," "bring the family, everybody here is kin." Musically the album is interesting on several occasions, and the musicianship caught my attention on several occasions, but I can't get behind this type of pop.
Lyrics — 7
Gary LeVox provides lead vocals but Rooney and DeMarcus provide a lot of backup and harmony vocals, really to the point where it is the defining characteristic of their sound. The vocals are perfect on the album, whether they did takes until they got it right or they had some subtle nudges by auto-tune, I couldn't say - at the least it was very skillfully done. There is nothing to complain about from a vocal standpoint, except maybe the vocals sound too polished and perfect. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the title track, "Rewind": "Wish I could reach up and reset that sun/ reverse these wheels go back and re-pick you up/ went by so fast oh so sweet/ make me wanna remake a memory/ wish I had me a time machine/ oh I float the moon back up in the sky/ put a cork back into that sweet red wine/ put your midnight hair back up so you can let it fall one more time/ untouch your skin/ unkiss your lips and kiss 'em again/ so good so right this is one night I'm wishing I could rewind." The only thing about the lyrics is there are a lot of lines that I think are supposed to be clever, where they mention things like "you sing along with some Timberlake bumping" and "we do what we do like we do" and "get your feel-good on, get some pictures on Instagram," but these lyrics don't come across as clever… they come across sounding stupid (or at least in this context).
Overall Impression — 7
So, Joe Don Rooney plays guitar, Jay DeMarcus (kind of ) plays guitar, and Gary LeVox has a nice voice, but at the end of the day the fact that their bass player and drummer aren't part of the band say a lot… it says they aren't so much as band as an "act." There is nothing wrong with that, but you've gotta be honest about this type of thing. Do they create good music? Well, they create some very catchy music. The songs are very polished. Now each song basically fits into one of three categories, or a mixture of the categories: you have the nostalgic songs that are trying to revisit the good ol' days, you have the love songs exploring heartbreak or new love, and you have the "it sure is nice to be country" type of songs. After a while it can feel like you're listening to the same song over and over.