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Thomas Rhett

Tangled Up – 2015 (Valory Music)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Thomas Rhett

Thomas Rhett picks up where he left off on his 2013 debut, "It Goes Like This," which netted three chart toppers. Rhett would be hard to categorize as country, although in the big tent philosophy of what passes these days, country serves more as a marketing niche. He's more soul, funk and hip hop than country. His catchy, bouncy "Crash and Burn," another number one song, is squarely soulful pop with a few small sonic tweaks (whistles, backing "uhs" near the end) to make you realize there's a lot going on behind the vocals.

And he gets downright funky on the light, not exactly deep "South Side" a song he wrote with Chris Stapleton and Jesse Frasure, with lines like "you gotta move/when you feel the groove." It sure sounds like there's a sax blowing, but apparently that was programming or synth playing.

Rhett is all about the soulful vibe. The hit mid-tempo "Die a Happy Man" (that, too, hit the top of the charts) has an easy-going feel about it with Rhett's vocals easily putting the song across.

The Georgian picks up the tempo on the more full sounding, dance propelling "Vacation," (the song lists 14 co-writers!) which one could imagine Prince singing. Once again, Rhett doesn't play it straight with a few left turns and smart choices to keep the party moving.

Jordin Sparks helps out on the big sounding "Playing with Fire" to good effect with her pretty vocals a good contrast.

Rhett certainly doesn't conform to country music niceties. How could you when Charlie Puth and hip hopper Lunchmoney Lewis are participants? You're not going to find relics like fiddle or pedal steel here. Perhaps it's more an accident of the times that he will be found on the country charts (he mentions Marvin Gaye, Third Eye Blind and Guns N' Roses in separate songs). Never mind because Rhett sounds confident in putting his own stamp on his music quite well as "Tangled Up" is a meaty sophomore effort showcasing someone with a lot of musical smarts.