That’s right, folks. Darius Rucker, the front man for Hootie and the Blowfish, has released a country album titled "Learn to Live." I’ve just finished listening to it, and I wanted to share my impressions with the masses (all three of you).
First, let me qualify my review by saying that I’m a Hootie fan from way back. During their meteoric rise in the 90’s, I saw them live in Atlanta and Knoxville a couple of times, including a great outdoor show on the lawn of the World’s Fair Park. I don’t care whether anyone thinks they’re sell-outs, Hootie rocks and rocks hard. Period.
The band’s star has waned in the past few years, but they’ve stuck around to drop a new album every few years. The dimmed spotlight has actually allowed their music and lyrics to mature nicely. I think some of their best tracks came from 2003’s self-titled album and 2005’s "Looking for Lucky" (which most folks completely missed).
The past decade has also allowed Rucker to foray into a solo career. In 2002, he released "Back to Then," which celebrated old school soul and was pretty well received. Rucker’s voice has such a unique sound that he’ll always be Hootie on some level, but the musical style was something different and it helped to distinguish him from the band.
Now there’s "Hootie’s county album." Rucker’s Charleston roots have always given his music a blues sound, so it’s a relatively short hop to the country genre. While it’s not exactly banjo-pickin’ Hee Haw fare, the album does have that characteristic country/pop sound. The overall theme varies between fun ("Forever Road") and wistful ("Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It"). A few songs shoot for clever but come off a bit corny ("Drinkin’ and Dialin’"). And no song tells a sad story about a hopeless situation quite like a country song ("I Hope They Get to Me in Time"). But overall, the collection has a lot of heart. Plus, it could pass for another Hootie and the Blowfish album.