Music: Darius Rucker

September 25, 2008

by Mary Nash

Hootie gone country?

Sept. 16 saw the transition of one of America’s best-selling artists of the 90s move into the cowboy hat wearing genre.
Darius Rucker, best known as the lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish, released the album Learn to Live. a surprising shift for the renowned artist.

Rucker certainly must have felt he had something to prove following the 16-time platinum success of 1994’s Cracked Rear View and he delivers in his first country effort.

Between the writing skills which cross genre lines and enlisting country stars ranging from Alison Krauss to Vince Gill, Rucker hones his country music skills in a way that is unparalleled in an age where everyone from Jessica Simpson to Bon Jovi to Jewel seems to be trying their hand at storytelling.

Rucker opens the album with “Forever Road” which resonates a truly timeless country single with nauseatingly sweet puppy-love lyrics and a banjo-driven instrumental may make the Hootie fans try to run, but Rucker’s strong, driven voice makes the audience lend an ear and take notice.

By far the largest leap on Learn to Live came in the form of “All I Want.”

This song sounds like it would be more at home on a Dwight Yoakam album as opposed to something from a former Billboard Hot 100 chart topper.

“All I Want” does diagnose one of the largest problems on the album-Rucker’s unwielding desire to try so many different styles that he never settles on a type and runs with it.

Rucker does make good for many fans with tracks such as the first single, “Don’t Think I?Don’t Think About It” and the title track, “Learn to Live.”

“Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” currently at No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot Country Song charts, is one of the best tracks to be found on the album and a seamless transition from his soft rock days to a contemportary country crossover with his powerful vocals and resonating instrumentals.

Extending into a new type of lyrical content, Rucker makes an attempt at honky-tonk, good-time lyrics regarding everything from a laid back evening (“Alright”) or a night of a little too much fun and the consequences which follow (“Drinkin’ and Dialin'”).

Rucker attempts in a few places throughout the album to extend into ballads with “If I Had Wings,” featuring both Krauss and Gill on background vocals, and “I Hope They Get to Me in Time,” a narrative regarding an accident scene.

Ultimately, Rucker is able to do what so many have failed at-make an album worth listening to in whatever genre he chooses. Learn to Live is worth the $9.99 on iTunes even if just for curiousity’s sake.