It came as no surprise to me when I caught wind of the story here a while back that Darius Rucker had “gone country.” After all, several years before Hootie and The Blowfish had their gazillion selling Cracked Rear View album, the University of South Carolina boys were playing at least once a month at Al’s Pumphouse here in Greenville, often busting out the country songbook. I particularly recall Darius singing a lot of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Dwight Yoakam.
Speaking of Dwight, there is a real Yoakam vibe to the ultra-cool “All I Want,” featuring Brad Paisley on guitar. The picking on Darius' first country album is inspired and upbeat, from the set opener and radio friendly “Forever Road,” all the way to the closer, “Be Wary of a Woman,” and everything in between.
"Don't Think I Don't Think About It" is the first single from the album, and what a single it is. A perfect example of today’s country sound. The title track, “Learn to Live,” is an upbeat, feel good autobiographical song that deserves to be a single as well.
It’s all good, but the ballads are the selling point here, and Rucker's voice sells them big time. He just nails "History in the Making." A standout track is the contemplative "If I Had Wings," an amazingly beautiful song with Vince Gill and Alison Krauss on backing vocals.
Learn to Live is an album jam packed with country goodness, and a good deal of pop sensibility. There is not a bad track on the record, seriously. Darius has ruled the pop Top 40, and now it seems he is about to conquer country. Good for him. He’s a major talent, and a helluva nice guy. I’ve known that ever since I first heard him deliver Hag’s “Sing Me Back Home” over at The Pumphouse in the early ‘90’s. Good job, Darius.
-Michael Buffalo Smith