The good news is that “Three Chords And The Truth” may be the best single Chase Rice has ever released. The bad news is that it’s still not any good.
Chase Rice is a C-list creation of the Bro-Country era, best known as a co-writer for Florida-Georgia Line’s monster Bro hit “Cruise” and as the performer of generic, unremarkable songs like “Ready Set Roll,” “Gonna Wanna Tonight,” and “Whisper” (the last of which was so bad Rice wrote a pseudo-apology for it). I was hoping we’d heard the last of Rice after his last two singles crashed and burn outside the Top 40 on Billboard’s airplay chart, but he’s reappeared on the country radar with “Three Chords And The Truth,” the leadoff single for his new album Lambs & Lions. Unfortunately, the best I can say about this song is that it’s a halfhearted attempt to split the difference between classic country and Rice’s Bro roots, and while even a baby step like this constitutes progress for him, it’s still not even remotely worth listening to.
If you’ve heard the production on one Chase Rice song, you’ve heard them all: A prominent mix of real of synthetic percussion that’s left on its own during the verses, and some spacious electric guitars that swell up on the choruses. The only difference here is that the volume is dialed back slightly, and the guitars are pushed more to the background in favor of some dobro stabs and a token banjo. (There’s a squealing instrument near the end that might be a steel guitar, but if it is, it’s buried under so many effects that it’s nearly unrecognizable.) While the prevalence of minor chords do establish a more serious atmosphere than usual, the mix just doesn’t do enough do stand out from Rice’s past material, and comes off sounding like just another Bro-Country song. (It also doesn’t complement the writing at all: If you’re going to refer to classic songs to make a nostalgic connection with the listener, both the lyrics and the mix have to allude to those tracks, and the sound here is just too modern to make the references stick.) Overall, the small changes made here were admittedly for the better, but a lot more were needed.
Vocally, I’m not a huge fan of Rice’s delivery on this song. There are shades of Dierks Bentley in Rice’s tone, but Bentley is a much more charismatic performer and his a lot more texture in his voice, whereas Rice sounds more generic and struggles when the song asks him to drop into his lower register. Honestly, Rice doesn’t seem to have the comfort level with material like this that he does on his usual Bro-Country offerings, and it shows: He meets the minimum acceptable standard of believability for the track, but he doesn’t sell the story all that well and thus doesn’t leave much of an impact on his listeners.
The lyrics here focus on the power of music, and how a song can be a touchstone for a person’s past experiences. It’s certainly not a novel topic (see: Clint Black’s “State Of Mind,” Kenny Chesney’s “I Go Back,” Trisha Yearwood “The Song Remember When,”…heck, Sara Evans had a single with this exact title in 1997, though the topic was slightly different), and this song makes the strange choice of focusing on the present instead of the past: The chorus is just a laundry list of activities people partake in (and it’s the usual Bro stuff: drinking, partying, “roll[ing] around in a bed of a truck”), and very little attention is given to the memories these songs bring back (there’s a line about how you “almost feel the sand on your feet,” and that’s about it). Frankly, the writing feels a lot lazier than it should be, as it’s just a mishmash of Bro tropes, superficial song title drops, and other throwaway lines that don’t really fit together.
Overall, “Three Chords And The Truth” is a forgettable mess of a song that is caught somewhere between Bro-Country and the more-serious climate of today’s country radio, much like Chase Rice himself. While I won’t say Chase Rice isn’t capable of transitioning to a more-traditional country singer (hey, Cole Swindell seems to have pulled it off), he’s going to have to pick up the pace, or his songs aren’t going to bring back any memories at all.
Rating: 4/10. I’d pass on this one.