Darius Rucker returns with his second solo project album titled ‘Learn to Live’. Darius, front man for currently on a hiatus Hootie and the Blowfish, is well known for making fans sway left and right and sing his songs every chance he can get. A band that has been together since an astonishing 1986, Darius has had the tendency to sway on the solo side of the fence. In 2002 he released his first studio album called ‘Back to Then’ that was a carbon copy of any of the numerous Hootie albums that have and will be released.
When he released the first single off this track called ‘Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It’ I was excited about the potential of another Hootie sound. I was, however, pleasantly shocked. The first single was so far from what anything Hootie has ever thought about recording that I could not wait for the album to drop. Having a small country twang, which you will hear about here in a few moments, it was the type of song you could find on a rock station and a country station at the same time.
Well we begin in the back of Garth Brook’s pickup truck. I wanted country and by God do you get country right out of the gate. The first track titled ‘Forever Road’ brings that always-memorable Hootie voice to the forefront of an acoustic guitar. Darius has stated, and especially in his older age, that he is running out of days to write about drinking and girls. We can call this a last ditch effort. His voice, as it will for the entire album, hits the highs and lows that you have always heard. I take this first track as a sampling of what his newfound relationship with Capitol (the Nashville version that is) Records will bring. I just hope that he signed a three record deal by the time this album is over. But in this first track he sets you up, warms the cowboy boots, and throws you smack in the middle of a hoe down.
He does not fall too far away from Nashville with ‘All I Want’. This song reminds you lyrically of the guy playing the guitar in the background. Brad Paisley makes a guest appearance here and you can just see where this inspiration comes from. Compared to the majority of Brad’s new releases we are hit with a humorous jingle. Talking about love that never worked, and what he wants to keep from this ‘wonderful’ relationship. He loves her in these lyrics, and he always will, but when he starts talking about how he just knows its over and how he just wants some peace and quiet, he just gives her everything. Just wants her to leave him alone! And who actually owns a pink and yellow couch?
Next we are hit with the first single ‘Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.’ This song is an epic in itself. It starts with him driving away from something that meant more than nothing to him. “Don’t think it don’t get to me. Between the work and the hurt and whiskey,” are some incredibly powerful lyrics. And speaking of that set of lines I recently was embarrassed by my summer time windows down singing skills. I was on my way to class and I was yelling these lyrics at the top of my lungs when I just then realized that the car next to me was enjoying my American Idol skills. But in this track he repeats that set of lines many times but that’s OK. I can relate, as I am sure that the majority of you people can. Everyone has been through this at some point in his or her life. At about the last half of the song his voice makes a drastic and powerful shift. He gets on top of the microphone like you know his emotions are pouring out on stage. I have seen Hootie and the Blowfish in concert before and to be able to potentially see him sing this solo will end all that is music for me in terms of live performances. The track ends just when it should and you are left with wanting nothing but more. This track, while should be considered the best one on the album, is a great way to pull you into the rest of these songs.
‘Learn To Live’, the title track from this album, brings that hopeful progression from the gate. When he starts the song with ‘Grandpa’ stories you are a little confused on where he will go. He starts telling of all the wisdom his grandfather enlisted upon him. You can see him, as a young boy, sitting on his grandpa’s knee on the front porch. There is nothing more you can see than happiness, hope, and cracked wooden floors. He then talks about growing up and getting into trouble. This is a story of a lifetime. He brings back the memories of the grandfather and that same talk they had when he was a little boy. I almost feel while listening to this track that he is writing Hallmark cards. But that is in no way shape or form a bad thing!
‘If I Had Wings’ comes in next to show a little bit of the politically correct side of Darius. I feel that the way the first few tracks have led us to believe of nothing but upbeat and dance style album, he needed to slow it down. I am glad he slowed it down to be honest. The idea that if given the chance to have wings (and would that not be a great power to have) and the only place he would go is Heaven. The power that these wings could potentially give someone he wants to do nothing but good. It shows the softer side of Darius that lacks in a lot of his previous releases.
The next song, again starting with the progression, starts in the sheets with your lover. The lyrics of this song are so well written that the combination of great music hold it tight to you. He’s talking to the one true love of his life. “Baby this could be out lat first kiss” is something that you wish you could find. You want to hold someone close enough to make that history he speaks so softly about. But think back to the last person that you kissed for the first time. Was that the history? Were those butterflies there? If you have that person beside you right now hug them, kiss them, tell them exactly how you feel. And this song is one that I wand to dedicate to my good friends Ryan and Kory. They have recently decided to spend the rest of their lives together and they are all I can think of when hearing this song.
The next track, ‘Alright’, brings you to the State Fair and the dirt on your shoes days. Comparing a reservation at a fancy restaurant to a plate of Spaghetti and a cheap bottle of wine is a great visual. “I got a roof over my head, the woman I love laying in my bed,” make you want to just lay in bed all night and her close. This song leaves you feeling happy for those things you have. I have had the chance to hear inspoirational words from a close friend before that this song reminds me of. He one said “Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food when you are hungry? Do you have your health?” That right there is this tracks underlying theme. If you have everything you need then you are just fine.
‘It Won’t Be Like This For Long’ is the next track that I cannot really relate to. It seems to be the cliché excuses of a new addition to your life. Not being a huge fan of children this song does throw a tad ounce of hope into you. The line about time passing so quickly leads right to the title of the song. He does it again, however, in the same album, where he begins talking about progression in his life and time passed. This does do one thing very well though, and that is painting a great picture in your mind of what he is going through.
The next track is by far the funniest thing Darius will ever release. I mean, he once talked of the Dolphins making him cry, but this trumps that. Th
e track, ‘Drinkin’ & Dialing’ is something we have all (those of you who drink that is) have gone through. This entire album, really, shows you everything in a picture perfect visual motion. “When you take my keys I’m begging you please go on and take my cell phone,” is just the start of how true this song is.
Here we go again. If I did not like Darius so much and the things he has stood for in the world of music with me I would turn this album off at this moment. His progression from start to finish begins here again. I will actually save you the struggle I am finding to say something good about the fifth chapter in this album’s book.
The next track, ‘While I Still Got Time’, is the exact underlying behind what I assume is his inspiration to release another album. He is running out of time, if you will, for the things that he wants to accomplish and experience in his life. This song, does, however, inspire you to not want to take anything personal for the rest of your life. He is blowing out candles and he is making a list of things he is going to do while he still has time to do those.
He brings in a little hostility here with ‘Be Wary of A Woman’. This song is deep into an album that sounds a lot like every other song. I have had the tendency to not even make it to this song while listening to the entire album. The song does what the title says it will and breaks down what a woman will do to you in the end. I have heard it maybe twice. No worries, the song is not any different than anything else you have heard on the album.
I would normally give something that Darius would have his hands on a higher rating than 7. But this album really does lack a lot of luster from originality. You are shocked in the beginning at his ability to go country, but at the same time it gets old and fast. This album would be ten times better if he would have left off three tracks. You do not need to start hitting thirteen and fourteen tracks to make a solid album these days.
The album is good. It is inspirational. It is something I am proud to say that Darius made. But if he continues down this road of country music he needs to branch out and try something a little more risky than what is already on the market.