Center Point Road

by: Thomas Rhett

Facing his thirties, Thomas Rhett finds himself in a nostalgic frame of mind on Center Point Road. Named after the road he called home during his childhood, Center Point Road teems with memories both real and invented, yet the record rarely feels like a throwback. That's by design. Rhett may have cut his teeth within the swaggering confines of bro-country, penning hits for Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean, but as a recording artist, he's been fleet on his feet, more likely to ride a soulful groove than crank up a backwoods anthem. His fondness for R&B is married to a love of pop melody, elements that give his music elasticity -- a flexibility ideal for the shape-shifting streaming musical landscape of the late 2010s. A good chunk of Center Point Road could slide onto a pop play list and a listener would be none the wiser. That's as true of "VHS," a gleefully transparent ode to the retro-glitz of Bruno Mars, as it is of "Beer Can't Fix," a breezy beach duet with neo-trad singer Jon Pardi, whose presence conveys country authenticity the recording happily never attempts. All through Center Point Road, Rhett leans into this mellowly eclectic fusion, a sound that could be called crossover only if the singer didn't already record this blend on 2017's Life Changes. The two albums may be cousins, but Center Point Road does exhibit the kind of maturity that inspires reflection: he sculpts his personal experience into something that feels personal. It's growth for a songwriter who could occasionally be a little too on the nose -- witness the celebration of his wife's social media accounts on "Life Changes" -- and it's teamed with the most confident and quietly adventurous music he's yet made. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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