Charleston, SC 1966 by Darius Rucker

The on-hiatus Hootie & the Blowfish frontman created a successful blend of touching love ballads and positive up-tempo meditations on life with his 2008 foray into country music, Learn to Live, and he reprises that winning mix for his sophomore country solo release. The album title is a clear nod to Darius’ hometown and birth year as well as to Radney Foster’s 1992 album, Del Rio, TX 1959. Darius’ brand of country music, much like Radney’s, is full of detailed, true-to-life accounts of love, regret and loyalty to childhood stomping grounds. His vibrant, authentic voice wraps warmly around ballads “The Craziest Thing” and “She’s Beautiful.” Radney co-wrote “Might Get Lucky,” while Brad Paisley offers some ace guitar licks and vocals on the duet “I Don’t Care.” Darius, who co-wrote every song on the album, is a husband and father, and his songs are an accurate reflection of that, from the opening strains of “This” to the album’s closer, “In a Big Way.”

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Other performers include Rodney Crowell, Patty Griffin and Jason Isbell.