The first shotgun blast single from the Columbus, OH trio’s eighth effort Changed (April 3), in which self-production was the aim of the title, “Banjo” was actually written by longtime country heel-stomp generators Neil Thrasher and Wendell Mobley, with a little assistance from Tony Martin. And unfortunately Rascal Flatts proper didn’t see production duties either. That honor went to Dann Huff, who has twiddled studio knobs for everyone from Faith Hill to Megadeth. Which is important to note here, as this ain’t your grandpappy’s banjo tune. “Shotgun blast” should have tipped you off.
A namesake skipping banjo pluck makes it alone, aside from a foreboding kick-drum thump, until about thirty seconds in, and then it’s time for the electric guitar crunch and an escape route out of the “concrete jungle,” lead singer Gary Levox achey-crusading the way:
I drive my truck and drive
I pick up my baby
She jumps in with a kiss and a ‘hey’
We exit off that old highway
Sometimes you gotta go beyond the pavement
You really can’t write a better stereotype than that. And that’s not a indictment. This is one polished, organ-drenched yeehaw ode to rural l-i-v-i-n. One that will be played ad-nauseam by the dive bar city folk set on one of those TouchTune faux-jukeboxes. But an anthem nonetheless, with some 80s metal “whoa” inflections and a token American Idol octave-howl on the way out. A sing-along reference to a place that “ain’t on the map,” “way on out” with “crickets and frogs.” What does one find upon making it to such a place? Well my friend, you find the “banjoooooo.”