Rascal Flatts has a good feel for what its fans desire

by Alison Bonaguro
Special to the Tribune

(Published September 27, 2007


Rascal Flatts only debuted in 2000, and already they're a legend. Their last album sold more than any other country act in 2006. So their new album, "Still Feels Good" wouldn't dare reinvent that wheel. It merely re-creates it.

The new Flatts' album hit retail and digital stores Tuesday, much to the delight of their young-but-enormous fan base. So far this year they've played for about 800,000 fans. If each one bought this CD, they'd be in for absolutely no surprises. This is Rascal Flatts like you've always heard them before.

The intros are so strong, with quiet guitar picking or bouncing mandolin, that there's a glimmer of hope that each tune will be original somehow. Then they all fall into formulaic Flatts. A song about how much you've been through? Got it. One about hanging out blaring country music? Done. A ballad of tragic death?


And again with the predictable midsong guitar solo?

It's all here.

Most of the album's tracks give the impression that Nashville's songwriters may be officially out of new ideas: "Here" has the same theme as their 2004 No. 1 "Bless the Broken Road." Other songs make you wonder how they ended up on a Rascal Flatts album at all.

"Secret Smile," with its perky melody and lyrics about turning clouds into rainbows, has Neil Sedaka written all over it. And "Bob That Head" has a bluesy rap-rock beat that feels more like an obligatory Big & Rich single.

But then, there's the "Revolution." Literally. Frontman Gary LeVox sang this one through a Cooper tuner, like John Lennon before him, to get the sound right on this Beatles cover. And a collaboration with Jamie Foxx on "She Goes All the Way" stands out.

Already, single "Take Me There" is No. 1 on the country charts and could very likely cross over. It's one man's plea to let him into that place where nobody's been with things nobody knows, and musically it cements their status as country's boy band.

"Still Feels Good," the harmony-heavy title track, does the best job of showcasing the trio's love affair with love. Not just the shiny new kind, but the been-through-it-all variety. And this tune, about how everything old -- her threadbare T-shirt, their song on the radio -- still feels good is destined to keep them on top. Despite this effort's unoriginality, there's something about a Rascal Flatts album that still feels good too.

Copyright 2007, Chicago Tribune

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