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This fourth effort from the soft-rock-masquerading-as-country band Rascal Flatts moved more than 721,000 copies its first week out, which let the female-friendly trio rub elbows with some mighty heady company. Only four other country artists (Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks, and Tim McGraw) have rolled out numbers like that, and only 24 other acts total (including Eminem, 50 Cent, U2, and Coldplay). So what's the hook, besides Gary LeVox's wounded tenor and Joe Don Rooney's boy-band face? Clearly, it's the songs. Or itusuallyis. OnMe and My Gang, "What Hurts the Most" is the one that'll end up on a tape loop in your head, though "Yes, I Do" memorably frames romantic yearning and regret with ersatz reggae rhythms, and the sexy "Cool Thing" does a slow burn. The problem? New producer Dann ("King of Excess") Huff bloats too many tunes with screaming, by-the-book guitars and general bombast. And despite his über success with Faith Hill and Keith Urban, Huff has never really understood what makes country, well...country. Instead, he insultingly works in a snippet of steel guitar and a couple of family lyrics--e.g., the melodramatic "Ellsworth" is meant to pull the heartstrings of anyone who's seen the cruelty of Alzheimer's--and thinks he's thrown Nashville a bone. Worse, "Backwards" boringly reworks that hoary ol' country joke "What do you get when you play a country song backwards?," the title song is a Big & Rich ripoff, and even God gets dragged in for a half-baked attempt at middle-America resonance ("He Ain't the Leavin' Kind"). C'mon now. Call these boys pop and be done with the pandering. Joe Don's famously photographed derrière got a fairer crack than this.--Alanna Nash

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Label:  Lyric Street
ArtistRascal Flatts
Release Date:  April 4, 2006
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