South Carolina-born baritone Darius Rucker has spent years developing a recognizable solo artist sound. Formerly the deep charismatic frontman of the band, Hootie & The Blowfish, Rucker has a long track record of creating the perfect mixture of Southern rock and pure down home country. His latest album, Southern Style, is heavy with relatable storylines and all the components that embodied the “southern style,” he strives for.
With the usual southern gentleman in search of a modest yet beautiful, church-going gal, Rucker surprises with the lyrics in “Homegrown Honey.” A girl that easily throws back a shot of whiskey is more appealing to him, as he sings over an amazing guitar-centric production. Then the fun keeps going in “Good For A Good Time.” Led by amazing banjo-picking, this future honky-tonk hit shows off Rucker’s vocal ability and talent for creating a new melody from a familiar sound.
As the album continues, “Baby I’m Right,” is undoubtedly, “the start of something beautiful.” With a feature from Mallary Hope, the song has a coastal Carolina sound to it that made me envision a first date picnic on the beach in Hilton Head.
The title track comes around three songs later and is truly the model of the album. “Southern Style,” according to Darius Rucker, is a culture where everything about his ideal women is wonderfully predictable, country and plain. In the song, he sings, “Sunkissed hair and not much makeup / High-heeled boots that lace up / Two first names that came from / Her grandmas on both sides.” And as if that detailed description wasn’t enough for Rucker to truly capture the essence of the women in a song, he continued. More in depth, the lyrics say, “She ain’t ever read much Faulkner / But she could’ve been his daughter / She grew up of muddy water / Southern style.”
Darius Rucker knows that no country album is complete with the ultimate chill song. “High On Life,” Rucker’s southern piano sound helps him portray the perfect day where he doesn’t do much of anything but lay there, eat pie and love his woman. “Don’t get much better than that,” as he sings in the song. Another coastal song with perfect baritone vocals is “Perfect.” It’s a song meant to uplift a woman who simply does not know her true worth. Rucker appears to be the perfect southern gentleman.
For the first time in the album, an upbeat song is the opposite of the “good time” scenario as the times get a little mellow in “You, Me And My Guitar.” The production seems rather dull at first, but the exciting guitar solos that pop up between the lyrical pauses help the title make a little more sense musically. It’s overall an okay song, which ends nicely and leads into “Low Country,” a sweet, lazy love song. With one of the most unique and catchy melodies in the album “Need You More,” left me wanting to play it again. The song has serious radio hit potential.
A Folk fiddle introduces a new way of looking at the “half empty, half full” saying. In the song, Rucker sings “This ain’t a glass half empty.” A truly southern way of seeing things, he feels that it’s a “Half Full Dixie Cup.” But Rucker’s Southern rock background becomes apparent in “Lighter Up.” With a simplistic, catchy melody, this song also has great radio potential.
The album slows down with “You Can Have Charleston,” one of the most beautiful productions on the album. Unfortunately, the lyrics express a sort anti-ode to his hometown, Charleston, South Carolina. Leaving his beloved town to escape the ghosts of his past, Rucker sings of a desire to move West and never return until he’s dead to be buried.
Still in the winding down state, “So I Sang,” has a relaxed melody with a story about identity. Though songs like this are usually found on debut albums, it works with the concept of Southern Style. “Down Here,” where a bunch of strange things happen, Rucker is having a good ole’ time. A song the begins to bring the album to a close by describing all of the things that make the South a good home, the artist gives an effortless vocal and lets the lyrics lead. In the song, he sings, “We got family / We got friends / We got ice cold beer / I’m sure heavens nice / But tonight it ain’t too bad down here.” The album does come to an end and a mid-tempo southern rock song “It’s All Over.” And just like that, 3 minutes and 12 seconds later, it is over.
With all of the rock, folk and blues sounds the creep into the album, Southern Style is all over this album. With the help of writers and composers like Charles Kelley, Nathan Chapman, Josh Thompson, Franks Rodgers, Kendall Marvell and more, the album as a whole is a cohesive collection of songs for every mood.