What makes Thomas Rhett an endearing songwriter is the way he marries attention to detail with nostalgia, a gift he utilizes on his fourth studio album Center Point Road where he connects the distinct details and memories of his life to his current journey.
He begins this story with an anthem. Opening “Up” with a string of piano notes that cause one to believe it’s leading into a ballad, he turns the track on its head, transforming it into an upbeat, jazz-leaning number that speaks to how true happiness can’t be attained without enduring life’s struggles. “You can never go up if you’ve never been down,” he sings over a glowing melody comprised of a horn section and supporting choir. He stays in this feel-good vein on “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time” where Little Big Town lend their shining harmonies to the jazz-infused jam before Rhett is “Blessed,” a suave, R&B style love song that’s as natural a fit in a jazz bar as it is in a country dance hall.
Rhett begins to venture down the path of nostalgia that he walks so sincerely on the album’s title track. A cinematic melody of piano and violin takes the listener inside the blissfulness of youth as Rhett and duet partner Kelsea Ballerini call back to the comforting memories of the past, their voices organically intertwining as they sing, “we wrote our own destiny in parking lot and empty streets, when growing up was just a dream, and Friday night was everything.” He continues to capture the pure feeling of reminiscence on “That Old Truck,” a tribute to the vehicle that became a sanctuary during his formative days, one that symbolizes friendship, first loves and heartache. “I learned just who I wasn’t and who I was in that old truck,” he sings thoughtfully.
In between these introspective lyrics, Rhett redefines the format for a country party and drinking songs with “VHS,” a synth pop-meets-funk style celebration of summer that shows off his retro flair, and “Beer Can’t Fix,” where he and Jon Pardi find the silver lining in life’s grayer moments with an ode to liquid courage. But the singer-songwriter follows his compass back to recollection with “Remember You Young,” a poignant ballad wrapped in polished production that evoke flashbacks of Darius Rucker’s hit “It Won’t Be Like This For Long.” Rhett revisits the memories he made with childhood friends who’ve now become straight-laced husbands, before taking us into his intimate world, watching the fleeting moment of his infant children taking their first steps. “You won’t be that little for long, one day you’ll move away but you’re still gonna stay this innocent after your gone,” he sings reflectively.
This emotion pours into the honesty of “Dream You Never Had,” a song that feels more like a conversation between he and wife Lauren that he’s letting us listen in on. The song is as equal parts a message of sympathy as it is a thank you letter to the woman who supports his dream as he offers an understanding look at the struggle that comes with life on the road away from his family, capturing this feeling through images of a couple sleeping separately and raising children through phone calls.
He ends the album with the two compelling attributes that anchor his lyrics, nostalgia and appreciation, on “Almost,” chronicling the moments that nearly took him down another path, between almost quitting guitar or the women he thought he’d marry but left him with a broken heart instead, leading him to his wife. “Thank God for the almost,” he sings in the closing line, a notion fans are bound to soundly embrace, as these acts of fate are what led him to carve his defining mark on country music, one that’s become even more memorable through Center Point Road.