Darius Rucker 'Southern Style' - Humphead

It is hard to know where a recording like this sits in the queue of contemporary country artists. The genre covers an ever widening span of music and just where do we place a reformed rocker turned country boy?

It is a commercially produced, radio friendly collection of 13 songs, many of which are hook filled hits. Using two different producers, Keith Stegall (five tracks) and Frank Rogers (eight tracks), the sound is slick and smooth. However, here lies the dilemma; is such a well-produced, glossy product a true reflection of where real country music is heading? This is an increasingly worrying trend that is pushing country music in a pop direction.

This is Rucker’s fifth solo album since going country. His three previous albums—Learn to Live, Charleston, SC 1966 and True Believers—all topped the Billboard Country Album chart, clocking up six Number One singles. He is also the first African-American with a Number One country song since Charley Pride, back in 1983.

Darius has added a country inflection to his vocal that can sometimes sound too close to Garth Brooks territory and we also get plenty of the familiar country themes and titles; Good for a Good Time, Southern Style, Homegrown Honey, Low Country, Half Full Dixie Cup. One of the more genuine songs here is So I Sang, written as a tribute to his beloved mother. Perfect is also a fine tune that displays his voice in a way that recalls his past life as Hootie & the Blowfish. Born in Charleston and influenced by r&b as much as country, Rucker has a soulful delivery that continues to win over doubters like me, but I can’t help feeling it is a long way since that great song from 2008, It Won’t be Like This For Long.

Darius Rucker ‘Home For The Holidays’ - Hump Head Records.

Darius Rucker first entered my musical world when he played Ireland as support to Brad Paisley a few years back and some where in my photo archives is a shot of them with Darius using a bottle of Guinness to help Brad play some pretty mean slide blues. So when I put this album in the player I wasn’t quite expecting what I got to listen to. 

This is a holiday album that will be around for years. His voice keeps reminding me of both Dean Martin and Nat King Cole and that is some compliment coming from me. But he still has his own unique approach to these songs that lifts them above a simple homage the the “old masters”.

Twelve tracks include many of the old regulars but different enough to deserve lots of listens. Then there are two that Darius was involved in writing that to me have the makings of new standards. What God Wants For Christmas and Candy Cane Christmas are two great new tracks that I’ll be surprised if they don’t get covered in years to come. You’re A Mean One Mr Grinch and Baby It’s Cold Outside with Sheryl Crow are two other tracks that deserve an honourable mention.

This album probably leans a little more to Memphis then Nashville and that suits me fine. It’s a late night, lie on the floor with your head between your speakers and drift away sort of album. Just the sort that I really enjoy.