Thomas Rhett, ‘Country Again: Side A’ – Album Review

Thomas Rhett released Side A of his double album project, Country Again, today April 30th. With 11 new tracks, take a look below as we dig a little deeper into the new music.

Thomas Rhett has not just kept busy in the last year, but he has received continued success and has even more on the horizon. Most recently, he received his 17th #1 song with “What’s Your Country Song?”, announced his upcoming Center Point Road Tour, and received the ACM Award for Male Artist of the Year. Now he has released the first part of a two-part album release, Country Again: Side A, an 11-track album with some of the most personal and down-to-earth music that Rhett has released to date. We can’t help but say that for each new album he releases, as we felt that same way when we first heard Center Point Road and Life Changes, but it’s the truth, the singer-songwriter continuously releases music that is true to himself and relatable to others. Side A is entirely co-written by Thomas Rhett and six of the songs are also co-written with his dad, Rhett Akins. 

In the Country Again: Side A trailer, Rhett gives some insight on what this collection of new songs means to him, and what they reflect about his life. He shares: “I think in a nutshell, Country Again: Side A is a little bit of just a growing up path. Every single song on this record is what I wish I could have spit out of my brain when I was nineteen years old. You know, these are the things I was trying to say.” He goes on to say, “these past twelve years, I’ve been on this incredible journey but I think deep down I’m still that kid that just wanted to write songs and play them for people. You know, I think I’m just getting back to the root of why I ever wanted to sing music in the first place and it was to tell a story and invoke emotion. I just feel like for the first time at thirty years old, I’m right where I’m supposed to be, and I’m happy to be there.”

The decision to release Country Again as a two-part double album was largely a result of the abundance of songs that Rhett found himself writing over the last two years, the most he ever has. While this project was already in the works, the pandemic alone resulted in so much more new music from the artist. Rhett was perhaps one of the most transparent and present artists on social media throughout the pandemic. He was constantly teasing acoustic versions of new songs he had written on Instagram. Admitting that anything more than a 10-track album overwhelms him and would normally cause him to check out, Rhett said he had never even considered a double album before. However, the response he received from fans for the songs he was playing on Instagram was so strong, that he felt they all deserved to see the light of day. Since he wrote so many songs that he loved, Rhett decided that he wanted them all to be put into the world, but in two parts so that fans would have the chance to digest both parts, giving a greater chance for people to connect with each individual song. Now, all the songs about this time of his life and during this writing journey could exist together on the same project, but in a way that they would be fully appreciated and reflective of a time where we were all forced to look inward and ponder our past and future.

At the start of 2020, Rhett was already exploring the idea of stripping down his music, drifting away from the “Make Me Wanna” and “Crash and Burn” type of songs and the kind of sound that defined him, especially at the start of his career, and gravitating towards writing more about his life, family, and “what country music is in the first place – the emotion and the soul and being able to tell a story in three and a half minutes.” Speaking on the kinds of songs that got him here in the first place, Rhett says that those define a particular aspect of his personality. He’s grateful for those songs because when he wanted to carve his own path, he believes they separated him from the pack. Rhett doesn’t drift entirely away from the sound of his that we know and love on this project. “Put It On Ice” and “Blame it on a Backroad” are the pair of upbeat carefree songs on Country Again: Side A and they remind us of his classic sound. But right now, he’s in a different phase of his life and there’s a lot more that he wants to say. Most of that stems from his life with his wife, Lauren Akins, and their three daughters, Willa Gray, Ada James, and Lennon Love.

Rhett says, “When you have kids, it’s kind of impossible not to write about them. Your marriage shifts and your life shifts, and your free time is not free time anymore. So when I do have the chance to write, I want to write about something that’s really happening and says something.”

While he was already headed in the direction of making the kind of music found on Country Again, the pandemic in general and more time at home really brought the project out of him. As we can all understand, he was suddenly forced to face the issues and the questions that were pressing on his mind. When he had to slow down, he took a look at himself and asked for the first time, “Who am I? Who is Thomas Rhett without a microphone or a guitar or a stage?” In figuring that out and feeling as though he was neglecting being a husband, a dad, and a friend, in ways, 2020 acted as a reality check and a complete reset. When he settled into himself and his family, and started working again, that shift completely influenced his songwriting. 

Country Again: Side A includes a handful of pre-released singles like “Country Again”, which sets the mood as the title track, highlighting Rhett’s return to his roots and acting as the inspiration for this project. Rhett says that the story behind the title track started out as a joke. He walked into a meet-and-greet wearing cowboy boots for the first time since about 2012, which made everybody on his team look at him like ‘where are your sneakers?’. But he said it felt good to slip them back on – it felt right. And out of that story, they wrote “Country Again”. When they finished that song, Rhett felt they found what the theme of the record was going to be – “It’s not about wearing boots or getting in the woods, it’s a way of life”. The song felt so pure to Rhett that he wanted to lean on more traditional sounds and the instruments that made him fall in love with 90’s country, like fiddle and pedal steel. In just the first weekend of wanting to experiment with getting back to his roots, another five or six songs came out. 

“I traded in my Silverado // I didn’t need no 4×4 // Tucked my boots in the back of the closet // They didn’t feel like me no more // But I dug ’em out and slipped ’em on // They’ve been on my feet since then // Man it feels good to be country again”

“Growing Up” and “What’s Your Country Song”, both of which were pre-released songs, as well as “Where We Grew Up” and “More Time Fishin” each reflect the very theme that Rhett wanted “Country Again” to stand for, in their own way. 

“Growing Up” is a song about taking a look at how you’ve grown as time has passed. Rhett shares that “it’s about my past self and the things that I used to think were cool… and becoming a wiser version of yourself that you never pictured yourself becoming. But then you get there and you’re like, I have learned something worth sharing.”

“What’s Your Country Song” is one of those ‘songs about songs’ and includes so many classic country songs that Rhett not only grew up on, but ones that have defined the genre over the years, and probably include some of your favorites too. As one of the father-son co-writes on the album, it only makes sense that Rhett Akins’ “That Ain’t My Truck” would be in the mix.

Next on the album, “Where We Grew Up” is about being proud of where you came from and for the endless memories and lessons you have from that time of your life. While “More Time Fishin” is about not wanting to wake up one day to look back on your life and regret not doing certain things that you should have. 

“You can spend your whole life // Tryin’ to make a killin’ // But what’s it all worth without a little livin’ // Don’t wanna look back at all the things I’m missin’ // And wake up wishin’ I spent more time fishin’, yeah // More time fishin’, yeah”

Tying in the very values that TR wanted this album to represent, he also included a few songs that are extremely personal and about some of the most important people in his life. One for an old friend, one for his daughters, and one about him and his wife, Lauren’s story. 

“Heaven Right Now” is a tear-jerker and a song that is so personal to not just Rhett but to Lauren as well. It’s a letter to their friend Hunter, one of their best friends and a member of their ‘crew’ back home who lost his life way too young. On writing this song, Rhett shares: “That one still wrecks me…I don’t know why I had never thought to write about him, but maybe it’s because only now do I have the space to do so, the time to reflect and put words to the pain inside of me.” If you have read Lauren’s book, ‘Live in Love’, she talks about her and Thomas Rhett’s friendship with Hunter throughout its entirety and how losing him has affected them and the rest of their friends since. In her book, like in the song, they each talk about the bracelet that Hunter’s mom made for all their friends with his initials and a fishhook on it. They both talk about still wearing that bracelet and how Rhett has never taken it off. You can see it in any picture, and at every concert and award show. 

“Are you fishing, are you flying // How much greener is the grass // Are you older, are you younger // Or did time stop in its tracks // Anyway, thought I’d say hey // I just made my way past your momma’s house // I wonder what you’re doing in heaven right now”

Knowing their story makes it even harder to listen to, but at the same time, where Thomas Rhett is singing from is a place that anyone who has ever lost someone close to them can relate to. It’s not just about missing them, but about wishing you could catch up, wishing you could have experienced more of each other’s lives together, and the questions you would ask them if you could. If you want to know more about Thomas Rhett and Lauren’s story, we highly suggest reading her book. It goes back to them being friends as kids and all of that adds a deeper meaning to almost all of Rhett’s music from his love letters to Lauren, and now to his songs about their family together, and all the life that’s happened between them meeting in the second grade until now.

Like Rhett said, “when you have kids, it’s kind of impossible not to write about them” and speaking on “To The Guys That Date My Girls”, he said “that’s a song to my daughters saying ‘I hope you grow up and date somebody that’s a good kid” He goes on, “I wrote it on the road, and I played it in concert the same night that we wrote it. And I was watching grown, burly men, bawling their eyes out while they were holding their daughters, going ‘Please don’t get older!’ There’s a lot of dads out there that are wondering what that conversation is going to look like.”

Quite literally a letter to the guys that will date his girls, while also sneaking in some love for Lauren, this song was written by not only their Dad but also their grandfather. Giving mostly ‘free advice’, they don’t pass on the opportunity for a little threat either… 

“You know you can’t fool me // I know what’s on your mind // Wasn’t long ago I was your age and the same thing was on mine // And when you pull her close you save some room for Jesus // ‘Cause if you ever cross that line I swear boy you’re going to need him”

With his incredible songwriting talents and the ability to not only pull on heartstrings but also throw some lines for his loved ones, Rhett does the same with “Want It Again”. True to him and Lauren’s story, this song is about young love that didn’t last, but always stayed in the back of your mind with the hope that somewhere down the line that person would come back to you, and sometimes they really do. 

Rhett closes Country Again: Side A with a song that perfectly expresses everything that he wanted for the whole project. When Rhett talks about feeling like he is exactly where he is supposed to be in life, this song says it all. “Ya Heard”, which he played for fans on social media in April of 2020, is a song about everything working out exactly the way it was supposed to. Learning from his own experience, Rhett offers advice about holding on to faith and staying optimistic that life is going to turn out alright. He says, “sometimes I look back and wonder if God was ever listening. Even if I wasn’t on my knees praying about it, I think he was hearing every little thing that I wanted in my life. From my wife to my kids to my music, everything turned out to be exactly what I dreamed of.”

“This old guitar dad played in bars // As soon as it was mine // I started seeing shooting stars // I played at parties out in fields // And I hoped one day by the grace of you // It just might pay the bills”

We couldn’t be happier about this collection of songs, what they mean to Thomas Rhett, and how he has evolved over the years, both personally and in his career, and we can’t wait for what Side B has in store. Until then, we’ll have Side A on repeat.

1. “Want It Again” | Thomas Rhett, Matt Dragstrem, Josh Miller, Josh Thompson
2. “Growing Up” | Thomas Rhett, Matt Dragstrem, Josh Miller, Josh Thompson
3. “What’s Your Country Song” | Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley, Parker Welling
4. “Where We Grew Up”* | Thomas Rhett, Luke Laird, Josh Miller
5. “Heaven Right Now” | Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Matt Dragstrem, Josh Thompson, Laura Veltz
6. “To The Guys That Date My Girls” | Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Will Bundy, Josh Thompson
7. “More Time Fishin’” | Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Will Bundy, Josh Thompson
8. “Country Again” | Thomas Rhett, Zach Crowell, Ashley Gorley
9. “Put It On Ice (featuring Hardy)”+ | Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Matt Dragstrem, Josh Thompson
10. “Blame It On A Backroad” | Thomas Rhett, Zach Crowell, Ashley Gorley 
11. “Ya Heard” | Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Matt Dragstrem, Chase McGill

Produced by Dann Huff and Jesse Frasure
+Produced by Dann Huff and Matt Dragstrem
*Produced by Dann Huff

Although no official tracklist or release date for Side B has been revealed yet, we can assume that fans will see even more songs that the artist has previously shared on social media throughout the past few months. Unreleased songs like “Your Momma’s Front Porch”, “Things Dads Do”, “Bass Pro Hat” and “That’ll Be Us Someday”, kept fans on their toes as Rhett consistently took to Instagram to tease new music. Now, only time will tell which songs will make the official cut on the second album.

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Country Again: Side A is now available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released music here on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.