The first thing to notice about Darius Rucker’s first country album is how great the music sounds. Frank Rogers, the guy behind the boards of Brad Paisley and Josh Turner’s albums (among others), teamed with Rucker to craft the album and, like the Hootie & The Blowfish records Darius fronted, the band behind the voice simply sparkles and is allowed to shine. “Forever Road” leads off the record and with a punchy hook-filled melody, Darius shows off his considerable vocal skill as he sings of eternal love with the woman of his dreams. While the lyric is chock-full-o’ country clichés, they call them clichés for a reason; the average person loves to hear the same themes over and over again.
“All I Want” is the first song Darius Rucker wrote for the record and it’s immediately apparent that his heart is in what he’s doing (unlike doing the R&B album a few years back). Written with Frank Rogers, the honky tonk feel that is present on “All I Want” finds Darius stating that his soon-to-be-ex wife can have every worldly possession that she wants because all he wants from her is to leave him alone. This is country music and I hope to the high heavens that it gets released as a single. “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” is the first single from the album and it was the perfect choice to introduce Darius to mainstream country audiences. It’s a song full of regret and and emotions that come with regrets and what ifs. Just because you move on doesn’t mean you don’t still think about it and what might have been.
The title track (“Learn To Live”) has a philosophical, if a bit overused, slant to the lyrics while the melody melds traditional instrumentation with some modern guitar guiding the lyrics and turning them into an ear-catching, radio ready song. “History In The Making” has a nice lyric to it that comes off as a much more natural pick-up line than Brad Paisley’s “Ticks” was. Fans of Hootie will certainly enjoy the jam band feel of “Alright,” even if it’s laced with steel guitar and mandolin.
Anyone who is the parent of young children will certainly relate to “It Won’t Be Like This For Long.” It has the same message as “You’re Gonna Miss This” (Darius’ co-writer Ashley Gorley co-wrote both songs) and numerous Phil Vassar songs but like Adkins, Darius Rucker is able to elevate material that may be well-worn and make it sound interesting. “I Hope They Get To Me In Time” is the only song on this record that Darius didn’t co-write and man, what an emotional lyric it is. Written by Monty Criswell and Wade Kirby, the song finds Rucker singing about what someone is thinking when they’re stuck in a bad accident waiting for help to arrive. If this song isn’t a gigantic radio hit, something is wrong with country radio.
Coming into this record, I had high hopes for it being an album worth repeated listenings and Darius and his label, Capitol Nashville should consider that a mission accomplished. “Learn To Live” is packed with many quality contemporary country music tracks that feature Darius’ distinctive vocals and strong, hook-filled melodies. It is an album that has me firmly believing that Darius Rucker is going to be a huge country music star, something I haven’t really felt about the other country music cross-over artists who’ve also released debut country albums this year.