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Me and My Gang’ consistent pop-country

Liz Byrum | Thursday, April 13, 2006

Just hearing the title of their latest CD clues country listeners in to the fact that the men of Rascal Flatts don’t take themselves too seriously. “Me and My Gang” is the pop-country band’s first studio release since 2004’s “Feels Like Today.” The album is made up of much of the same melodic harmonies that have defined the group since its inception, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Thriving in a musical genre that exists in a constant tango between real country and pop pleasantries, Rascal Flatts has continually succeeded in creating entertaining pop-heavy music disguised as country that is okay for adults to enjoy. In fact, the only real evidence of legitimate country that can be found on this album is the song “Backwards,” which takes listeners through a fast-paced twangy lesson of “what you get when you play a country song backwards.”

Rascal Flatts first formed when second cousins Jay DeMarcus and Gary Levox enlisted Joe Don Rooney to join them as a substitute guitarist during a gig at Nashville’s Printer’s Alley. They gained immediate success with the release of their first self-titled CD and its first single, “Prayin’ for Daylight.” The harmonies that make Rascal Flatts stand out have paid off. Since the release of its first album, the group has won the Country Music Association’s (CMA) Horizon Award in 2002, as well as the CMA’s Vocal Group of the Year Award for three consecutive years (2003 through 2005).

The first track on this fourth studio release, titled “Stand,” is an inspirational, somewhat corny piece about picking up the pieces and putting them back in place. Although it may not be the most powerful song on the album, its strong chorus, which includes the lyrics “Cause when push comes to shove / You taste what you’re made of / You get mad you get strong / Wipe your hand shake it off / Then you stand,” leaves an agreeable feeling in its wake.

“What Hurts the Most,” the first single released from “Me and My Gang” stands out with its beautiful instrumentation. It is once again a prime example of the harmonic ballads which have made Rascal Flatts famous. Enhanced special features on the CD also take listeners to the group’s website, where they can view the making of the song’s music video. This is their first long-form music video, produced by Shaun Silva, and features a plot line centered on a teenage girl’s struggle with the loss of important male figures in her life.

Rascal Flatts makes a departure from its well-known sound on two tracks on the album. In the title track, “Me and my Gang,” the band channels Big and Rich as they sing “With me and my gang / We live to ride, we ride to live / Me and my gang / Jump on that train / Grab hold of them reins.” The song also steals a talk box guitar sound that was made famous on the well-known Bon Jovi hit, “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

The second song that could make listeners stop and question if they are really listening to a Rascal Flatts CD is “Yes I Do.” This song, with a simple “yes, I miss you” theme, begins with a swaggering reggae beat that seems more like something on a Kenny Chesney album. However, as soon as the recognizable voice of lead singer Levox chimes in, it once again becomes clear which country crooners are creating the simplistic, reliable sound.

Rascal Flatts goes one step further on “Me and My Gang” to please its adoring fans. There are not only 13 new tracks included on the disc, but additional new live versions of three past hits, “Love You Out Loud,” “Mayberry” and one of their most popular hits, “These Days.”

Although they don’t introduce any ground breaking new sounds on “Me and My Gang,” Rascal Flatts continues to succeed at giving their fans exactly what they want – fun, consistent sounds that are pleasing to the ear.