If you bring up Thomas Rhett in a discussion with fellow Country music fans, you’re guaranteed to get a split reaction. Some Country fans think he’s the bees knees and lap up every release her puts out while others feel he’s strayed too far away from the genre to be classified as Country at all. Following the release of his debut album It Goes Like This in 2013, Rhett has pushed the boundaries of Country music with every subsequent release. 2015’s Tangled Up injected funk, soul and pop into the mix and 2017’s Life Changes was pretty much a straightforward pop record. Like Taylor Swift before him, Rhett has seen the effect that crossover appeal can have and that seems to be where his sights are now set.
Fourth album Center Point Road, which dropped at the end of May, is a little bit of a frustrating body of work. Ahead of the album Rhett teased fans with the release of a series of tracks and it felt like he may be about to return to his roots. After the Country pop of Look What God Gave Her and the funky party tune Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time featuring Little Big Town, Rhett got us all excited with the shimmering throwback That Old Truck and the Country ballad Remember You Young. All the signs were promising so does Center Point Road deliver on its potential?
The short answer is no, not really. The longer answer is that Center Point Road is a bit of a disappointment, lacking the personality that we’re used to hearing from Rhett. Even with Life Changes, which isn’t my favourite album of his, had some stellar moments but Center Point Road is just… well a little bland. Kicking off with the perfectly serviceable Up, the album doesn’t really get out of first gear until the title track, which features Kelsea Ballerini. I’m a big fan of both artists but even that song doesn’t pack the punch it should with two of contemporary Country’s biggest artists on it.
At 16 tracks long, Center Point Road definitely suffers from being overlong but it’s other problem is that it tries to marry Country Thomas With Pop Thomas and the end result is a collection that sounds like two different albums. The 80s-influenced VHS is a great catchy pop song but sat in-between the Country ballad That Old Truck and the R&B-influenced Notice, it’s just a little jarring. Things do pick up from Beer Can’t Fix featuring Jon Pardi, which is one of the album’s strongest moments. Don’t Stop Drivin’ has a Country rock feeling with a stomping beat and it’s more of that I was expecting from the album.
Two of the album’s finest moments are left until the end. Dream You Never Had allows Rhett’s voice to shine and lyrically is one of the more personal songs on the record, while album closer Almost has a big chorus that soars and is reminiscent of Rhett’s debut album.
For me, this is Rhett’s weakest album so far. Perhaps with time, and seeing him sing some of these songs live, I may change my mind or at least get into the groove of the album but sadly after multiple listens I just found Center Point Road unexpectedly bland, something I never thought I’d be writing about Thomas Rhett. I’ve been a big fan since day one but for me this album just doesn’t deliver but I’m sure it’ll sell by the bucketload.
Track list: 1. Up 2. Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time (feat. Little Big Town) 3. Blessed 4. Look What God Gave Her 5. Center Point Road (feat. Kelsea Ballerini) 6. That Old Truck 7. VHS 8. Notice 9. Sand 10. Beer Can’t Fix (feat. Jon Pardi) 11. Things You Do For Love 12. Remember You Young 13. Don’t Stop Drivin’ 14. Barefoot 15. Dream You Never Had 16. Almost Record label: Big Machine Records Release date: 31st May 2019 Buy Center Point Road