The first time I heard Darius Rucker, it was in 1992 in Charleston, South Carolina. He was the lead vocalist for a local band called Hootie and the Blowfish, who played frequent gigs around town where I was going to college. They were getting a lot of attention for their catchy, hummable combination of blues and southern rock. Perhaps their most unmistakable feature, though, was Rucker’s rich, distinctive voice. Audiences paid attention, and it wouldn’t be long before the rest of the country took notice as well, as they expanded beyond the city limits to a mass audience. Two years later they released their first of five studio albums, launching Rucker’s career into the stratosphere with the band, and eventually as a successful solo country artist, where he still shines today.
2015 saw the release of his fourth country album and tour by the same name, Southern Style. Thursday’s stop at the Cedar Park Center showed us he’s still at the top of his game with no signs of slowing down any time soon. He is as energetic and likable as ever, and his warmth comes through on the title track, a nod to his Charleston roots. He proves he still likes a good old fashioned drinking song, even with his wildest days behind him, as heard on “Good For A Good Time.” And he tells the story of how he came to write songs as a lonely outsider on the heartfelt, autobiographical “So I Sang.” There were plenty of hits from his years with Hootie, and his earlier albums too, including “History in the Making,” “All I Want,” and his crowd-pleasing take on the Dylan sketch (and Old Crow Medicine Show single) “Wagon Wheel,” which earned him a Grammy in 2013.
Preceding him on stage were the southern rock band A Thousand Horses, country duo The Brothers Osborne, and special guest and CMA New Artist of the Year Brett Eldredge. They joined him on stage for a collaborative end to the evening, proving he’s got plenty of class and loads of southern style to boot.
By Kristy Alberty