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Thomas Rhett

Center Point Road – 2019 (Valory)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Thomas Rhett

Thomas Rhett represents a dilemma for traditional country music fans. Namely, that he doesn't create much country music that appeals to traditional tastes. Although "Center Point Road" doesn't entirely reverse that trend, even during its most overtly pop moments, this new collection of songs is still a pretty good one.

The best song is also a love song - to a truck - titled "That Old Truck." It's the kind of song that only makes sense within country music circles. It's written much the same manner as a Eric Church lyric. Think of it as "These Boots," only on wheels. "Beer Can't Fix," which also features Jon Pardi, describes beer the way some folks might characterize duct tape. "Ain't nothing that a beer can't fix," these two brew disciples tell us. It's relaxing and appealing, much like an easy-going George Strait song.

One of the un-country songs, "Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time," also features Little Big Town on it. It's more dance-funk than country, but is nevertheless lightheartedly enjoyable in the same way as LBT's "Pontoon." "Up" rolls nicely to a beach soul groove, as it applies the truism that you can't appreciate sunshine without a little rain. It's easy to nod along in agreement to lines like, "You can't appreciate money/If you ain't been so broke it ain't funny." The song evolves into a gospel-y tone akin to The Jeffersons theme song near its conclusion. "Remember You Young" is also a highlight, putting a nostalgic lyric to a semi-chamber pop instrumental bed. Lastly, among the better songs, is "Almost." This one's an ode to the close calls in life, which could have been so much worse.

The title track includes a vocal assist from Kelsea Ballerini and aims for an epic statement about life's journey. It somehow falls short though, even with Ballerini's nice vocal turn. The most stylistic egregious entry is "VHS," which - with its '80s music influenced pop keyboard part and dance groove - comes off like a Bruno Mars reject. It should have been left out in the garage, along with all those unusable VHS tapes.

For anyone that may have feared Rhett was headed on a fast train for full-on pop pastures, "Center Point Road" reveals these fears were much ado about (nearly) nothing. He gets the balance mostly right with this effort.