Georgie Thorogood finds her hits and misses on the new album from firm fan favourite, Thomas Rhett.
Rhett’s new fifteen song album, Where We Started offers 46 minutes of pop country happiness, bringing together some superb songs penned by a truly outstanding team of writers. The overall sound is very clearly TR and it is somewhat astounding that he continues to produce so many great songs which essentially say the same thing!
Starting off with The Hill, a gentle song, written by superstar writers Lori McKenna, Emily Weisband and Jordan Reynolds, the quality of this band of writers shows through in this beautiful track. Whilst TR was not credited as a writer on this, it is a perfect fit for him, not only vocally but by the scene it sets for the tone of the album. Initially I was uncertain as to why this song had been placed as the opener in the album, however having listened again, it is clear that it is the perfect choice; anchoring the listener to the homely tone of the album – concentrating on the important things in life. It’s a grower.
Long-time Thomas Rhett co-writer Ashley Gorley, who takes credit for many of Rhett’s biggest hits (“Marry Me”, “Unforgettable”, “T-Shirt” amongst others) gets involved with the second track Church Boots. Created along with writer & producer Jesse Frasure and Ernest Keith Smith (also known as an artist under his own right) this is a much more upbeat song. With definite poppier tones, this isn’t one of the favourites on this album. It’s a standard Thomas Rhett track, but the image of a small-town America guy who never leaves town or changes his boots doesn’t have a particular appeal and the music itself seems a little repetitive.
Josh Thompson, Joshua Miller and Matt Dragstrem collaborate with Thomas Rhett on the writing of Bass Pro Hat which comes as the third song on the album. Individually, these writers have penned some of the biggest pop-country hits of the last decade and have worked with artists such as Kip Moore, FGL, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton as well as previous songs with TR, so it was inevitable that this would be an upbeat, fun track. That said, along with “Church Boots”, this almost seems a repetition of previous TR songs and whilst the message is on-brand, no one would be any worse off without this track.
Anything Cold is another Rhett/Gorley/Frasure song, this time accompanied by the legendary Shane MacAnally. Although continuing the pop-country sound, this is a more interesting song and a good old drinkin’ song that country music is so famous for. The change of pace mid-way through gives the structure of the song a little more appeal.
One of the standout tracks of the whole album comes next. Angels was released in January along with “Church Boots” but is in a whole different league in terms of quality. The Spotify streaming stats of 4.3m speak loudly and the message, “Angels don’t always have wings” is very relatable, especially in view of the hardships of the past couple of years. Written with Josh Thompson, Jaten Dimsdale & Julian Bunetta (who also co-produced the track), this has a much more interesting sound and takes the listener on a journey. It also gives TR a chance to highlight his vocals which have almost taken a back seat until this point. Jaten Dimsdale is a fairly new writer who has found fame on TikTok & YouTube since 2019 (along with a Warner Records deal) under the moniker of Teddy Swims, primarily working in the Pop, R&B and HipHop styles and he brings a new sound to the track, making it an absolute favourite. (Check out “Broke”, TR’s collab with Teddy Swims from 2020, too).
Half Of Me with Riley Green is another good drinking song. One of the co-writers is TR’s father Rhett Akins and with the reference to legendary artists such as Alan Jackson, possibly a little Texas twang and a slight hint of a “Friends in Low Places” vibe, this is a strong country song and will definitely be a listener pleaser. As a fan of Riley Green, this is a good pairing for a fun song and bridges the gap between “Angels” and the next country-pop number, Bring the Bar.
Although a definite return to the poppier sound of “Church Boots” and “Bass Pro Hat”, the production of this has been done cleverly and the use of more interesting chords/keys makes it a much more listenable song. It still maintains a very clear Thomas Rhett sound and wouldn’t be out of place on an updated Tangled Up album (2013).
Paradise is brought to life by Rhett/Smith/Thompson/Dragstrem again but thankfully in a much more appealing manner than “Church Boots”. Following on well from “Bring the Bar”, the interesting key changes give an almost nostalgic feel. It’s an almost upbeat love song, and everyone knows how good TR is at them.
Death Row. An “essential listen” according to the guys on Music Row, and its impossible to disagree. Performed as a celebrity trio of Thomas Rhett, Tyler Hubbard and Russell Dickerson, this was released as a single in March 2022 and has already amassed a huge streaming tally on Spotify. This is another of the top tracks of the album and is strong on the theme of respecting other people, being gracious, grateful and appreciating that which you have.
Mama’s Front Door is next up and is a good story telling country-pop tune. Thomas Rhett’s love story with wife Lauren has been widely sung and written about and this is another trip down memory lane, and a warm view of the present and family love and life. There’s a prominent electric guitar and the production winds down towards the end which is a really nice rounding off from a solid song.
Hugely popular Slow Down Summer (streamed nearly 19 million times on Spotify) is another Gorley/Frasure/Rhett co-write, this time joined by Grammy award-winning Sean Douglas, more widely known for writing with pop stars such as Lizzo, Jason Derulo, Demi Lovato. It’s a volume up, windows down kind of track and well positioned on the album, to keep listeners engaged in advance of the final four tracks.
Simple As a Song is another nostalgic track, bridging the gap between a pop hit and the very definitely country Us Someday. Written in conjunction with Amy Wadge and Jesse Frasure, Us Someday is an absolute top-class single, released in February and has the potential to be another “Die A Happy Man.” According to Spotify streaming numbers (3.2 million already), plenty of other people agree. The string-led instrumentation somehow makes the song sound purer and adds a definite level of class.
Somebody Like Me is a very modern country song and many traditionalists won’t be fans. Another upbeat song, it is fairly interesting structure-wise with some melodic speaking, some good singing vocals and variety in pace & production. It’s probably well placed within the album – it’s not a banger but it holds its own.
Another “essential listening” song rounds off the album. This time, the widely anticipated title-track Where We Started, a duet with Katy Perry. Ashley Gorley, Jesse Frasure and Jon Bellion combine with TR to write this. Jon Bellion has written for some huge artists with a range of styles (Justin Bieber, Eminen, Rhianna and Miley Cyrus) and this is a great song. The unique instrumentation and percussion works really nicely at the beginning of the song and the key changes really make it aa great song to listen to. It suits both voices really well and has been streamed over 2 million times on Spotify since the album’s release. It is sure to be a top cross-over track, although Rhett’s country roots have not been forgotten. Strings feature prominently again and it ties up the album to a perfect conclusion.
In summary, it is a great album with some awesome tracks. Of the unreleased songs, The Hill is a definite favourite and of those which have been released, Where We Started and Us Someday would be the picks, although it is tricky to choose as “Death Row” and “Angels” are also excellent songs. In my opinion, the inclusion of “Church Boots” and “Bass Pro Hat” on this album was unnecessary – the other thirteen songs seem to cover all bases with a much more interesting listening experience.
Thomas Rhett – Where We Started – Track Listing
1. “The Hill” – Lori McKenna, Jordan Reynolds, Emily Weisband
2. “Church Boots” – Thomas Rhett, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley, Ernest Keith Smith
3. ”Bass Pro Hat” – Thomas Rhett, Matt Dragstrem, Joshua Miller, Josh Thompson
4. “Anything Cold” – Thomas Rhett, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley, Shane McAnally
5. “Angels” – Thomas Rhett, Julian Bunetta, Jaten Dimsdale, Josh Thompson
6. “Half Of Me” (featuring Riley Green) – Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Will Bundy, Josh Thompson
7. “Bring The Bar” – Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley, Parker Welling
8. “Paradise” – Thomas Rhett, Matt Dragstrem, Ernest Keith Smith, Josh Thompson
9. “Death Row” (featuring Tyler Hubbard, Russell Dickerson) – Thomas Rhett, Zach Crowell, Ashley Gorley
10. ”Mama’s Front Door” – Thomas Rhett, Matt Dragstrem, Ashley Gorley, Chase McGill
11. “Slow Down Summer” – Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Sean Douglas, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley
12. “Simple As A Song” – Thomas Rhett, Luke Laird, Josh Thompson
13. “Us Someday” – Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Jesse Frasure, Amy Wadge
14. “Somebody Like Me” – Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Matt Dragstrem, Josh Thompson
15. “Where We Started” (with Katy Perry) – Thomas Rhett, Jon Bellion, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley