More than half the songs on Thomas Rhett’s Center Point Road could believably slide into the Today’s Top Hits playlist on Spotify — which is as much a commentary on the increasingly porous nature of genre as it is a reflection on Rhett’s easeful way navigating contemporary R&B rhythms and pop frameworks. He’s always been a thoroughly modern man, early affiliation with the lunkheaded “bro country” movement notwithstanding, and of all his albums, Center Point Road may be the one least concerned with maintaining any kind of country orthodoxy. When the album does tip its cowboy hat toward tradition, it’s usually in the form of lyrical tropes: Rhett waxes wistful about “That Old Truck” in which he made so many memories, and keeper-of-the-flame Jon Pardi stops by to wonder if there’s anything “Beer Can’t Fix.”
These are helpful reminders that Rhett has some real country chops, something you might forget while beholding his dauntless Bruno Mars impersonation in the swaggering poolside jam “VHS” (it stands for “very hot summer,” and has little to do with home video technology). A horn section shows up for the bright opener, “Up,” and Rhett exhibits his keen gift for breeziness on the featherweight groove “Look What God Gave Her.” These songs all revel in glossy surfaces and glistening rhythms, and at times Rhett’s easygoing nature can be a bit of a double-edged sword; there’s a slight laxity that settles over these 16 songs, probably two or three too many despite finishing in 53 minutes. Then again, the album’s generosity is part of its appeal: Rhett intended this to be equal parts pop blockbuster and contemporary country masterclass. He comes close enough, often enough, to make Center Point Road welcome company, and proof enough that Rhett’s modernity offers ample appeal.
Published as part of Rooted & Restless | Issue 4