Album Review: Rascal Flatts’ ‘Back to Us’
Rascal Flatts return to their roots with their tenth studio album, Back to Us. The country trio are well known for their spot-on harmonies, impressive guitar skills and energetic live show and their latest effort showcases the best of each of these qualities.
Their 10-track album kicks off with lead single, “Yours If You Want It,” which recalls early Rascal Flatts with their sing-along chorus and upbeat music. Other tracks, like the heartbreaking piano-driven “I Know You Won’t,” highlight Gary LeVox’s emotive vocals and brings to mind previous No. 1 hit “What Hurts the Most” with his ability to reel the listener into the lives of the characters within the song.
“I Know You Won’t,” written by Steve McEwan, Wendell Lee Mobley and Neil Thrasher, details a man trying his best to move on from a relationship that appears to be at the end of its lifespan. “I know you don’t mean to be mean to me / ‘Cause when you want to, you can make me feel like we belong,” LeVox sings softly.
Meanwhile, the catchy “Hopin’ You Were Lookin'” portrays the opposite situation as a man finds himself tripping over his feet as he falls for a new girl. Stuck in traffic, the girl has him pulling over to the side of the rode hoping for a chance to talk to her. Written by Dan + Shay with Cary Barlowe and Jesse Frasure, the infectious hand-clapped rhythms and LeVox’s rapid singing style make this a surefire radio hit. “Put your number in my phone / We can be so classic / June and Johnny Cash it,” LeVox sings on the catchy track.
Other memorable songs include the future concert staple “Dance” with its lively beats, finger-picked guitar rhythms and LeVox’s warm vocals as he sings of a girl who loves to dance wherever she is. Whether it’s in the car on an open road, in the kitchen by herself or on a crowded street, she doesn’t care who is watching. Meanwhile, “Are You Happy Now” is a powerful collaboration with Lauren Alaina written by the trio and Sean McConnell. A song first intended as a duet with Taylor Swift, Alaina’s soaring vocals leave a lasting mark as she harmonizes flawlessly with LeVox.
The summery “Kiss You While I Can” also strikes a chord with LeVox’s mesmerizing vocals at the forefront while the sultry “Vandalized” is a refreshing change of pace for the band. Alongside horns and slowed percussion accompaniment, “Vandalized” exemplifies Rascal Flatts’ ability to update their sound without forgetting what first made listeners fall in love with them.
Overall, Back to Us is the perfect title to Rascal Flatts’ tenth studio album as it appropriately does what the title suggests — has the trio looking back on what gave them success early on and taking things back to their roots. The 10 tracks within the project feature LeVox’s distinctive warm and emotive vocals while Jay DeMarcus’ production skills only amplify Joe Don Rooney’s guitar chops. Many of the songs recall early hits from the trio. All the while, the band continuously prove that they know their fan base well with the project’s story songs that immediately draw the listener in as their now career songs first did. After 17 years together, Rascal Flatts continue to prove their staying power with Back to Us.