REVIEW: Thomas Rhett reflects on life with ‘Where We Started’

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Photo by Lily Werner (elizabeth.werner@marquette.edu)

Thomas Rhett will be headlining at Summerfest in Milwaukee.

Thomas Rhett was recently announced as one of the nine acts headlining Summerfest this year. The country singer-songwriter will take the American Family Insurance Amphitheater stage July 9, the last day of the festival, following the lead of Jason Aldean, Justin Bieber, and Backstreet Boys.

Rhett will make the stop in Milwaukee as part of his “Bring The Bar To You Tour” which kicks off this summer, following the April 1 release of his latest studio album, “Where We Started.”

The record, Rhett’s sixth since his debut album “It Goes Like This” in 2013, is a heartfelt reminiscence for the artist. The artist looks back on moments in his life and recounts how life changes have brought him to where he is now: a husband, a father of four daughters and country music singer-songwriter with a long career ahead of him.

“Where We Started” is a pretty even mix of upbeat country tunes that carry the slightest pop undertone, which Rhett has showcased in his past works, and old school acoustic country songs that are pure to the artist’s songwriting roots.

A major theme of the album is Rhett’s marriage with his wife and how their relationship has endured and evolved over more than ten years. “Mama’s Front Porch” is reflective of the artist’s memories as he sings, “Today it just hit me that I’ve got some history / With every square inch of that faded brick porch / It’s crazy to think how much my life has changed now / And it keeps changing a little bit more.”

The “Die a Happy Man” singer devotes five more songs on the album to his wife, collaborating with fellow writers on almost all of them. “The Hill,” the lead-off track, is the only song that Rhett didn’t contribute to, but included on the album because of the feeling he had when he first heard the song.

“I think people can write a song about love, but it is never going to fully represent how I feel about my wife,” Rhett said in an interview with Apple Music. “And they sent me this song the next day and I was in tears in the kitchen listening to it, because I was like, ‘I feel like I wrote this song.'”

The album also has a few pretty notable collaborations. “Death Row,” the fifth single of the of the record, features fellow country artists Tyler Hubbard (of the popular country duo Florida Georgia Line) and Russell Dickerson. The song is powerful as it recounts the trip that the three men took to a Nashville-area prison to play songs for inmates on death row.

The lyrics are a raw, almost diary-like account of Rhett’s experiences, the feelings of nervousness he had when he got there and the transcendent humbled feeling he had leaving at the end of the day.

“I thought that he would be a monster / It turns out he’s a whole lot like I am,” Rhett sings. The three artists recently discussed the inspiration behind the song on Rhett’s “Where We Started Radio” show on Apple Music.

Probably the most intriguing collaboration of the record comes with the title track “Where We Started,” where pop singer Katy Perry joins Rhett to finish off the album. The final track offers insight into Perry’s humble beginnings as an artist and proves how similar her and Rhett’s performing origins are. The song has a little more of a country pop sound and the artist’s voices fit together in a way that happily surprised me.

Looking forward to Summerfest, I would like to believe that there is a decent opportunity for a few of this album’s songs to make Rhett’s setlist, namely “Slow Down Summer,” “Church Boots” and “Anything Cold.”

Overall, “Where We Started” is solid addition to Rhett’s discography and provides an even deeper look into the singer’s life and motivations. Personally, I enjoyed the songs on the album that contained elements of storytelling, specifically “Death Row,” “Simple As A Song” and “Slow Down Summer” as I was able to empathize with the way the lyrics were written and the stories they told.

I would rate this album an 8 out of 10.

‘This story was written by Kim Cook. She can be reached at kimberly.cook@marquettte.edu.