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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisOften times when an artist is slipping in their primary genre, they either hit the reality TV circuit or change styles all together. In the case of Hootie and the Blowfish singer Darius Rucker, he choose the second, abandoning the band's college rock beginnings to fully embrace an always hinted at country side. Even though the group's '90s hits still earn radio play, the current season marks the first time the front man's scored a significant new single since that heyday, suggesting that fans of southern sounds have given his otherwise stagnant career a second coming.
And the masses showed up to fill up a general admission floor and sell out the balcony of the always versatile Venue at Horseshoe Casino for an evening's worth of solo tunes and a handful of group memories. Now that Rucker's on his second country CD Charleston, SC 1966 (Capitol Nashville), he's well established at radio, allowing fans to have no trouble singing along with catchy, though generally generic chart toppers like "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," "It Won't Be Like This For Long" and "Come Back Song."
One of the more memorable tracks from recent years was his very own "History In the Making," an affable pop country ballad that was flanked with several onscreen images of celebrity super couples (from JFK and Jackie O to Lucy and Desi Arnaz). Rucker also dipped back even further for a traditional country cover of the Steve Goodman and John Prine-penned David Allan Coe classic "You Never Even Called Me by My Name."
No matter what rabbits Rucker pulled out of his hat, none came close to rivaling the reception from Hootie hits, which were rearranged ever so slightly to reflect his current musical direction. For instance, "Only Wanna Be With You" was stripped down and accented by the ukulele, while "Hold My Hand" earned some colorful fiddle flourishes. But considering the front man is having no trouble packing houses on his own and connecting with an entirely new audience, he really has no reason to return to the band anytime soon and seems satisfied interjecting a dose of variety in an often times predictable format.
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