HomeEF CountryReview: 'Where We Started' the new Album From Thomas Rhett

Review: ‘Where We Started’ the new Album From Thomas Rhett

Thomas Rhett’s sixth album, ‘Where We Started’ is out today (April 1st). It follows hot on the heels of last year’s earthy, organic sounding ‘Country Again’ release. Whilst there is a link and a connection between the two, ‘Where We Started’ is a more expansive album that takes some of the vibes and funk that Rhett has become known for, melding them with some of the simplicity and down-home feels of ‘Country Again’. Throw in some serious summer vibes and a little 1950’s Doo-Wop and you’ve got an all-round smash of an album that both adds to Rhett’s legacy whilst at the same time forges a path for him into the future.

‘Country Again’, Rhett’s previous release was an album born in the fires of isolation and the pandemic. ‘Where We Started’ originated there too but as Rhett began to go out on the road, the elements of his live show that he is famous for, the energy and the funk, began to creep into his writing. Plans for ‘Country Again Side B’ were shelved as song after song began to emerge from writing sessions and ‘Where We Started’ began to take shape.

You can hear that funk and that energy in song after song on this release but there is also a stripped-back simplicity present that was a feature of the ‘Country Again’ album. Gone are the bells and whistles production that previous albums have been defined by. Instead we are gifted songs like ‘Anything Cold’ or ‘Bass Pro Hat’. The former, written whilst Rhett and his co-writers (Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley & Shane McAnally) were actually standing in the ocean, feels like the poster child for this album. It’s a simple yet seriously funky, stripped back drinking song dripping in summer vibes that could easily dominate the radio airwaves too. ‘Bass Pro Hat’, meanwhile, is a laid back jam with some restrained and simple fiddles that demonstrate the wonderful juxtaposition Rhett has achieved on this album between the modern production values he is known for and good, old fashioned Country music.

‘Mama’s Front Door’ and ‘Church Boots’ continue that sense of old meets new. ‘…..Front Door’ is steeped in modern Country vibes and big drums but the personal lyrics and steel guitars time-stamp the song in a bygone era as Rhett sings about all the life-changing events that have happened at his mother-in-law’s front door. ‘Church Boots’ echoes the same feeling. ‘My old guitar is my new guitar…..my T shirt is my good shirt,’ Rhett sings here, on another simple yet seriously funky, stripped back mix of retro Country meets modern cadence & vibes.

Thomas Rhett Album Cover
Credit: Valory Music Co

Perhaps the biggest songs, in commercial terms, that will emerge from ‘Where We Started’ might well be ‘Half of Me’, ‘Bring the Bar’ and the title track itself, which features an appearance from Katy Perry on vocals. Perry’s turn is both powerful yet restrained on this atmospheric Pop-leaning song that has echoes of, and perhaps a genesis in, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s performances from ‘A Star is Born’. The melody is catchy without being showy, insistent without being in-your-face and the song really breathes with repeated plays after suffering a little from being the final track on a long album of 15 songs. ‘Half Of Me’, meanwhile, which features Riley Green, is a summer radio smash, pure and simple. It’s got a sort of Midland-esque retro vibe and a delightfully catchy, elongated, singalong chorus with some beach vibes thrown in for good measure too. ‘Bring the Bar’ sees Rhett treading Barry Manilow territory with some outrageous 70’s vibes, flamboyant ‘Copacabana’ style flourishes and a touch of Rhett’s own hero, Bruno Mars too. The melodies however, as with every song on this album, come first, leaving ‘Bring the Bar’ a tremendous addition to Rhett’s live set and a song that will earn a fond place in the hearts of his fans.

Rhett told us in a recent interview that he listens to a 1950’s playlist whilst cooking with his wife and that the decade holds a special place in his heart because of his close relationship with his grandparents. You can hear those influences in ‘Simple as a Song’ which samples a Doris Day track in the same way that Sam Hunt’s ‘Hard to Forget’ used ‘There Stands the Glass’ from Webb Pierce. You can also hear the 50’s in flashes across songs like ‘Paradise’, ‘Somebody Like Me’ and ‘Us Someday’ which opens with an almost ‘Bridgerton’ or ‘Downton Abbey’ style string ensemble that creates a melody that runs all the way through the song.

If you really loved the heavyweight, more serious nature of Rhett’s previous release, ‘Country Again’ then you are going to love album opener, ‘The Hill’ and the very evocative ‘Death Row’, a song based on a real life visit to a prison that Rhett undertook with Russell Dickerson and Tyler Hubbard, who both feature on the song too. Both songs are quiet yet melodic, serious yet easy to sing along to. ‘The Hill’ is the only song on the album that Rhett didn’t write and it’s there as lead-off, opening track so you know just how important it is to him. When I tell you that it was also co-written by Lori McKenna you know just how good it is going to be! ‘Death Row’, meanwhile, might well be an awards show highlight with its evocative lyrics, full of wisdom and import. We can see TR, Dickerson and Hubbard stealing the show across the 22/23 awards shows in the same way that Ashley McBryde and Carly Pearce have for this season. What to ‘do’ with ‘Death Row’ is something of a headache though – is it too serious for radio? Not punchy enough for mass consumption? How do you get a song like this across to a wider public? It deserves a lifespan beyond ‘Where We Started’ but that’s a bigger question for more qualified people than me!

As Thomas Rhett continues to grow as both a person and an artist his music gets more complex without losing any of the joy or joie de vivre that he has always had. The guy knows how to bring the beats and his love of artists like Bruno Mars means that the rhythms and cadence of his music is always going to have that funky quality. What he’s added into his repertoire now, though, over the course of his past two or three albums, is a gravitas and a wisdom that only ageing and experience can bring. Working with a close set of writers, Rhett is able to drill right into the heart of the human condition whilst making you want to dance or drink at the same time. That is some skill. That mix of meaning and melody is what all Country artists are continually striving to find. Rhett knows where it is and he uses it to its fullest effect.

Track list: 1. The Hill 2. Church Boots 3. Bass Pro Hat 4. Anything Cold 5Angels 6. Half Of Me (featuring Riley Green) 7. Bring The Bar 8. Paradise 9. Death Row (featuring Tyler Hubbard, Russell Dickerson) 10. Mama’s Front Door 11. Slow Down Summer 12. Simple As A Song 13. Us Someday 14. Somebody Like Me 15. Where We Started (with Katy Perry) Record Label: Big Machine / The Valory Music Co. Release Date: 1st April Buy a signed copy of ‘Where We Started’ now

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