Apparently, country power-trio Rascal Flatts feels a bit more reflective these days. Changed, the band’s eighth studio record, which dropped this week, cuts back (a little bit) on the uber-production, and lyrically delves into more emotional territory than they’ve been known for previously.
Changed, as it turns out, is an appropriate theme, not only for the record, but for the band itself. In the past couple of years, Rascal Flatts has switched labels (after their previous label folded) as well as changing management companies—and in the meantime, all three of the band mates have become family men on the home front. While much of the change is a natural evolution and an unfolding of life, most of the change has been monumental.
In short, through the process, Rascal Flatts hasn’t merely “changed”; they’ve matured. And mature is the best single-word description for the sound of this record.
Oh, don’t get me wrong—this is the same basic Rascal Flatts that fans have grown to love. The catchy country-rock riffs and hooks are prevalent through the record, and if the popularity of the album’s single “Banjo” is any indication, Changed is destined for the same kind of stellar success as the band’s previous work. It’s just that in various places on the record, Rascal Flatts allows itself to go to some deeper places lyrically than it has in times past, venturing beyond sentimentality into some pure raw emotion. “Come Wake Me Up,” for example, deals with the growing pain of waning love, while “Let It Hurt” flat out encourages an embracing of pain. And the title track “Changed,” a song about baptism, is nothing short of pure gospel.
Interestingly, and appropriately the overall production value of Changed is more streamlined, more focused, than previous recordings—a sound that is, for lack of a better term, “less big.” It’s as though the band has softened and simplified their big country sound just enough to let the lyrical value shine through. Very tastefully done, by the way.
Overall, fans will find fewer tunes on Changed that prompt the shaking of hips and raising of beer glasses, but that’s okay. Rascal Flatts has matured, both individually and as a band, and this record is the perfect reflection of that growth. I feel that Changed could prove to be their finest work to date.
ALBUM RATING: 4 stars (out of five)