Darius’ first Capitol Nashville album Learn To Live surpassed any expectations most fans may have had for the man best known as “Hootie” from Hootie and the Blowfish, the bar band from South Carolina that went on to sell 16+ million copies of Cracked Rear-View in the mid 1990s. While Learn To Live didn’t sell that many records, in a modern album sales market in which artists rarely sell even one million, Darius sold well over one and a half million copies thanks to the chart-topping hit singles “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” “It Won’t Be Like This For Long,” “Alright” and the Top 5 “History In The Making.”
These hits set up Darius quite nicely for his sophomore Capitol solo album (he released a ‘soul’ record before his Capitol deal). The album is titled Charleston, SC 1966 in a nod to his friend and country singer Radney Foster’s debut Del Rio, TX 1959. Whereas Learn to Live was mostly written by Darius Rucker and friends, Charleston, SC 1966 is completely written by the artist and his stable of co-writers that includes Foster, Kara DioGuardi, Casey Beathard, Chris DuBois, Ashley Gorley, and Brad Paisley along with producer Frank Rogers.
The radio-ready “This” leads off the album with lyrics that are basically about not having any regrets with the way life turned out. It works well as a spiritual partner to the title track of “Learn to Live.” Lead-off single “Come Back Song” is a tasty slice of radio-ready music that is Top 5 as of the writing of this review and it looks well-positioned to get to #1 in the next couple of weeks.
Radney Foster and Jay Clementi co-wrote “Might Get Lucky” and Foster’s songwriting influence is present in the vocal phrasing of the lyrics. The melody feels like country’s mainstream but is also undoubtedly traditional with audible steel guitar serving as the co-lead instrument with the electric guitar. “Whiskey And You” is the first ballad to appear on Charleston, SC 1966 and it showcases just how strong a ballad singer Darius is. There melody reminds me of my favorite 90s country songs with fiddles audible while pedal steel guitar is given a solo and proves to be a fantastic partner to Darius’ voice in the chorus.
“Southern State of Mind” might fall into “I’m proud of where I’m from” songs but that doesn’t mean it treads well-worn themes as this song’s verses just find Darius explaining that no matter where he goes, he’s a sweet tea-drinking, well-mannered southern gentleman. The melody is jovial with banjo, fiddle and steel guitar instruments providing melodic bursts of sunshine to the song. I have a feeling that this groovy little song will make for a fantastic summer single come 2011 and may just end up being the song for the summer. Featuring John Cowan, Bela Fleck and Sam Bush from New Grass Revival, “Love Will Do That” is a slice of Newgrass pie not unlike Dierks Bentley’s Up On The Ridge while “The Craziest Thing” feels as radio-ready as “Southern State of Mind” does (to be honest, every song on Charleston, SC 1966 feels radio ready).
Brad Paisley duets with Darius on the cute “I Don’t Care.” He also provides some of his signature guitar licks over the traditionalist melody. The powerful “We All Fall Down” brings a little faith and redemption into the album and it’s a song that serves to remind us to take time to enjoy the things that matter in life. “In A Big Way” is a ‘retro’ feeling tune that’s all about ‘mood’ and ends the record on a high note.
Charleston, SC 1966 may not feature many outright old school traditional tunes like Learn to Live featured but in many ways the album features quite a few songs that show off a more ‘traditional’ feel than most mainstream country albums do nowadays and to be perfectly honest, it’s a sound and feel that suits Darius Rucker like a glove.
If you prefer your music to be more than ones and zeroes you can order the CD at Amazon.