On Darius Rucker’s sophomore album, the Hootie and the Blowfish frontman does country music the best and most earnest way he can; by being himself. As the title suggests, much of Charleston, SC 1966 is personal; a collection of life and art intertwined within pop rock tinged country songs of love, loss, and reflection of the immediate world.
From the opening pull and comforting introspection of “This”, Rucker’s down home personality is the album’s shining quality. Whether he’s talking about good, honest Southern charm (in the terrific “Southern State of Mind”) or reflecting on the pain of love lost (“Whiskey And You”), one cannot escape the notion that Rucker really wants us all to stop and examine life wherever it may be at the moment.
An ample string of guest writers lend their hand to the songwriting; short but timely inclusions of work from members of New Grass Revival, ex-Idol judge and country songwriter Kara DioGuardi and Brad Paisley tints the album with elements of bluegrass and more traditional sounding country. The latter of which stars on the album’s only real clunker: the rather juvenile sounding “I Don’t Care”. While much of Charleston, SC 1966 is buoyed by an honest-to-goodness charm, this track feels a little like two teenage boys standing on the corner street hooting and hollering at girls and their relative breast size (no joke). It’s distinctively out of place.
It may not revolutionize country music, but Rucker’s latest has a very firm grip on the genre’s more accessible appeal. You can’t help but tip your hat to his understanding of who he is and how to translate all the emotion into well-written verses. Charleston, SC 1966 traverses the pop landscape with enough grit and twang to remain a down to earth American country album, but has the requisite sheen to be Southern just about anywhere.