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Rascal Flatts, ‘Banjo’ – Song Review

Rascal Flatts
Big Machine Records

Rascal Flatts‘ debut single from their new album isn’t as much of a breath of fresh air as ‘Why Wait’ from ‘Nothing Like This’ was, but the trio doesn’t need a sonic makeover as badly as they did in 2010. ‘Banjo’ is an uptempo pop-rock country song a la ‘Me and My Gang’ or ‘Bob That Head’ that wins bonus points for its edgy guitars and the, well … banjo.

‘Banjo’ should fit nicely into the group’s live set when they hit the road on Jan. 12 for the 2012 Thaw Out Tour. It’s loud and rowdy and it makes you want to hop from your office chair, dial up the Zippo lighter app on your iPhone and hold it in the air. If someone from two cubicles behind you shouts “I love you, Joe Don!” you know what’s just happened. They’ve listened to ‘Banjo.’

Sure, the lyrics are somewhat pedestrian, and “what is banjo” would be the answer to every square under a Jeopardy category labeled ‘Country Cliches,’ but when you focus on those details you miss the spirit of the song. The chorus goes: “You gotta go deep / Way on back / Cross a few creeks / And a couple little shacks / You gotta get lost / Way on out / Crickets and frogs / Yeah you’re gettin’ close now / And you kick it into four wheel drive when you run out of road and you go, and you go and you go-go-go / ‘Til you hear banjo.”

This style has typically been great for the band’s live show, but struggled commercially in comparison to emotionally driven ballads like ‘I Won’t Let Go’ or “What Hurts the Most.’ “It ain’t on the map / And I’m glad it isn’t / Leave the phone and the GPS, those satellites ain’t found it yet, got our own little piece of heaven hidden,” Gary LeVox sings during the second verse.

An extended banjo solo is a highlight, but late in the song the trio add a series of soul-sucking “uh oh ohs” that make ‘Banjo’ feel more like an early ’90s pop song than a country rock hit. Like many things in life (politics, hot dogs), this song should be enjoyed for what’s on the surface. Don’t go digging too deep, or you’ll ruin the experience.

3.5 Stars

Listen to Rascal Flatts, ‘Banjo’

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