"Patsy Cline never listened to Hootie and the Blowfish. But frontman Darius Rucker listened to Cline. And what has become of him in the last year would do her proud."
- Alison Bonaguro, Chicago Tribune
The first time I heard Darius Rucker on country radio, I wondered who it was. My wife said, "You know who that sounds like, that voice sounds like Darius Rucker."
I gave her a strange look. "Darius is the lead singer for Hootie and the Blowfish," she said, "if not someone has a voice just like him"
Jen would know. She loves Hootie and Blowfish enough to have bought some of Rucker's other solo ventures.
Since "Don't Think I Don't Think About It", we have been anxiously awaiting the release of the entire album. It was released Tuesday morning. I bought it on Itunes at midnight eastern time. (Actually, this was a good deal. Not a lot of new releases release at 7.99 on itunes)
Jennifer heard an interview on the radio with Rucker the other day. He said that putting together the album was exciting because it is the kind of music he has always wanted to do. In the 80s and 90s he said, he did not believe he would be able to break into country music as a black man. So he went with the bluesy, folk sounds of Hootie and the Blowfish. But now he believes that the time is right.
Listen more the the review of Alison Bonaguro, who writes for CMT and the Chicago Tribune. I think she hits the nail on the head:
I’ve been waiting for this day for weeks. Not very patiently, I might add. I’m so crazy about Darius Rucker’s new country album, Learn to Live, that I wanted this album release day to get here so the rest of the world could hear it.
Because this is not just another rocker who’s gone country. This is a man who clearly established he could sing when he was fronting Hootie & the Blowfish. But now he’s proven that the country roots — the ones so many claim to have had all along — are genuinely his.
Like with the stand-out banjo in “Forever Road.” The mournful fiddle in the near-death “I Hope They Get to Me in Time.” The robust steel in the debut single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.” The shoutout to Patsy Cline in “Alright.” And hook of all country hooks in the shuffle, “All I Want”: “All I want you to leave me is alone.” Every song has something that feels honest-to-goodness country. And those are all just small details of the bigger country picture.
When other artists have come to Nashville to add a country edge to their music, I have a hard time hearing it as country. Mostly because good country requires a blending of the right arrangements, traditional instruments, distinctive vocals and lyrics that tell a story. Having one without the others just isn’t enough. That’s where some new-to-country artists fail. Twangy vocals on nonsense lyrics. Or a hooky chorus with no steel guitar. Or layer upon layer of guitar disguising a mediocre voice. But Rucker has everything, in all the right doses. Download any three songs, and you’ll see what I mean. And whether you agree or disagree, come back here and give us your two cents.
She is right about "All I Want". Very easily could have been a George Strait song, except he has a recently released song with a similar sentiment from a woman's point of view. The hook of the song is 100 percent country. The bonus track about his momma is also a great song. And she is right about the narrative nature of country music, and how tuned in Rucker is to it. "Drinikin' and Dialin" is a great straightforward country song as well.
After listening to this for a few days, it is one of my favorite albums. Like other good country albums and good Rucker albums, it is something you can play in the background, take a deep breathe, and let hum along as the soundtrack to your day.