Darius Rucker, "Southern Style" (Capitol Nashville)
Darius Rucker's second career as a country singer shows no signs of slowing down on his new album, "Southern Style."
The lead singer of the rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker has scored three chart-topping solo country albums, spawning six No.1 hits, including the Grammy-winning "Wagon Wheel," one of the most popular country hits of recent years.
"Southern Style" continues to emphasize upbeat, pop-influenced country heavy on catchy choruses. Interestingly, the former rocker comes off as more country than some of his male country peers. The mandolin-driven "High On Life" and the slide guitar-fueled "Low Country" are more relaxed than anything by Jason Aldean or Eric Church.
But the breezy feel fits Rucker's comfortable baritone. Alan Jackson's producer, Keith Stegall, collaborates on five songs, bringing out Rucker's personable Southern drawl on "Baby I'm Right," a striking duet with the under-appreciated Mallary Hope.
Meanwhile, Rucker's longtime producer, Frank Rogers, adds new sonic treatments to "Homegrown Honey" and the title song, both of which celebrate Southern women. "Lighter Up" nicely captures contemporary country's trends, mixing a banjo with an insistent rock beat.
At age 48, Rucker's "Southern Style" provides plenty of reasons why this unlikely Grand Ole Opry star's career is still on the rise.