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Darius Rucker ‘Southern Style’ – Album Review

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One of the best things about Darius Rucker’s music is that he seems to write from a very personal perspective, largely ignoring the trend of songs about partying and ‘getting your feel-good on’. Darius is at his best when writing more hard-hitting lyrical songs, such as ‘Miss You’ from his last album ‘True Believers’, which didn’t perform that well on radio, peaking at 48 on US Country Airplay charts, but was critically acclaimed. Given that his last single from ‘True Believers’ was in February last year, ‘Southern Style’ was long-awaited, although being in the UK, my wait was broken by his amazing UK tour, where he played the first single from the new record ‘Homegrown Honey’.

Having promised a more ‘fun’ album, which people can ‘party to’, I wasn’t sure what to expect from ‘Southern Style’ since I didn’t want to listen to one of the artists I respect most cheapen himself to the level of Luke Bryan. However, following ‘Southern Style’s’ first single ‘Homegrown Honey’, I let out a little home-groan, since with lyrics like ‘homegrown honey, honey, honey, you’re so money, money, money’, the song was definitely not up to Darius’ previous high standard (although it is very good live).

Fortunately, ‘Homegrown Honey’ was an aberration, and the rest of the album is very, very solid, providing a relaxed Summer-evening atmosphere whilst lyrically staying true to where I imagine Darius is in life (assuming he is not too different to most 48 year old men). Musically, there are not many surprises from Darius’ previous three country albums, with most songs including acoustic guitar, drum kit and some banjo, mandolin and fiddle to add texture to the songs, and having a steady, pedestrian rhythm with some hint of swing to match Rucker’s dulcet tones.

‘Good For A Good Time’, follows ‘Homegrown Honey’ with an almost cabaret-inspired musicality, which is really interesting. I love the way that it is very free-flowing and feels like a natural party song, with a lot of emphasis on ‘country’ stringed instruments like the fiddle. When a party song reflects a free-living style musically, that’s when it is done well, rather than keeping a strict rhythm but making it ‘fun’ by overdoing electric guitars, as a lot of acts seem to be doing at the expense of their musicality.

‘Baby I’m Right’ is a highlight of the album, with a really simple, yet beautifully chilled melody paired to gorgeous backing harmonies. This is more similar to Darius Rucker’s style from his previous albums, tinkered with enough to prevent it going stale. One of the best things with this song is its atmosphere, with the gentle mandolin mixed with Darius’ soft vocals creating a really nice relaxing feel, going with the Summery theme of the album.

Given the title track, ‘Southern Style’, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was going to be yet another song about ‘the south’, and ‘southern pride’, being careful to avoid stereotypes (but not really). However, I am pleased to say that this track wasn’t sponsored by Lonely Planet, and is actually a pretty heartfelt song based around a particular girl’s characteristics, and whilst there are the oft-used ‘Southern’ references, they aren’t the focus of the song. I really like this, again enjoying the simplicity of the music and the relaxing atmosphere it conjures (are you getting a theme of the album yet?).

‘Perfect’ is the first of the authentic love songs on the record, and whilst it doesn’t take any risks with style or lyrics, and actually sounds quite similar to songs that Darius has released before, it does demonstrate what we already knew he does well; realistic lyrics to match stories about realistic relationships. It is this kind of song that drew me to Darius Rucker in the first place, and I’m glad to see that he hasn’t changed his style to the extent that he stops making these songs. Likewise, ‘You, Me And My Guitar’ is written in a similar vein, with a more upbeat rhythm and more of a Summery feel, and it really works for me, both as a story and as a nice song to sing along to.

Toward the end of the album, Darius brings his more hard-hitting songs, with ‘Need You More’ and ‘You Can Have Charleston’ providing a richer melody and backing, matching the deep longing that the lyrics describe. ‘Need You More’ in particular captures a sense of desperation when Darius sings about the depth of the love between the couple in the song, and creates a stark, yet welcome, change from the light touches of the songs thus far on the album. ‘You Can Have Charleston’, likewise plunges into some powerful emotions when describing the aftermath of a break-up, with the lyrics revolving around Darius moving away after the end of a relationship and describing how much he loves the city, painting the picture of how much he’s hurting in a quite clever indirect manner.

The album ends on another deep note, with ‘So I Sang’, telling the story of how Darius got into music. With a predominantly rich acoustic guitar backing and understated vocals, this is a truly beautiful song. Whilst perhaps an unusual move to end the album on such a subdued note, I think that this is the best song on the record, with the lyrics particularly hitting home when he sings about his mother’s death and how music helped him through. This is Darius at his absolute best, and the crescendo towards the end is really magical.

If you like Darius Rucker, then you will definitely like ‘Southern Style’. It is interesting in the way that it is both similar in style to his discography, whilst at the same time changing his focus for more of a relaxed, care-free style of song, and I find this quite refreshing. I’m surprised, and impressed, by ‘Southern Style’, and judging by the amount of spins it’s already received, I can certainly recommend it!

About Nick Jarman

Music writing as a hobby, neuroscience student at Cambridge University as profession. In the market for music-industry jobs, so if you like what you read, don't be shy! Otherwise you will either find me up a mountain, or on a cricket pitch!
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2 Responses to Darius Rucker ‘Southern Style’ – Album Review

  1. Livewire says:

    Another good reviewer has joined the FTCR team.
    This is a well written, thought through and well contructed piece, well done.

    With the increase in traffic to this website and comprehensive reviews you may get other sites linking to you if you were to give the albums an actually Rating out of 5 STARS, 1/ 10 or out of 100. They then take a cross section of scores to give an average.
    It would also help as a guidance to a reader to determine just how much the reviewer really thought of the album. You could even have a Best of 2015 at the year end?
    What about describing the actual product under review. EG Is it a download, shrink-wrapped cardboard, digi-pac or jewel case? Does it come with lyrics booklet?

    So Rucker the country carpet bagger is back with another album. Yes both he and Lionel Richie with falling albums sales elsewhere jumped on Wagon Wheel country bandwagon and used the same template with albums named after their hometowns to give some credence.
    Sorry never really been a fan of Rucker. I guess the BBC country DJs will be all over this as their freebies arrive from their favourite major artist label HUMPHEAD. In fact it might well be Rucker’s last album which was Humpheads last album to make the Official UK Top 100 albums for one week. The C2C2015 compilation looks to have flopped (never seen it on any chart) Since then Darius has had the C2C exposure so he might do even better this time round?
    The trouble is I’m not hearing a million selling single on “Southern Style” that will drive the album sales.
    I couldn’t stand ‘Homegrown Honey’ when I first heard it. What a coincidence NOT that it has climbed to No.1 on your friends NOT Country Aircheck chart on Monday perfectly timing the week of the album release. This happens so much, same with Paisley, Lambert etc oh and they fixed it for King George Strait with the 60 for 60 campaign with the single included on a 50 No1s compilation and artists congratulating George on YouTube weeks before it even reached the top! To have a single as mediocre as “Honey” reach No.1 is plain daft! It’s all manipulated.

    On first listen to this new album I found it boring, bland and cliched at times. A second listen still not much better. He said something about narrowing down 70 songs for the album.
    After reading “Baby I’m Right’ is a highlight of the album” on the above I gave it several more plays and I have to say its not bad at all helped by the additional vocals of Mallary Hope.
    This might be the only track that interests me.
    Of course major label releases get the most attention but thanks to FTCR’s track record of flagging other albums from Inde artists I find these FAR more appealing and really enjoying them.
    Also following up on the Brits at C2C 2015 I’d much rather invest the money on downloading a whole bunch of tracks and support them because again the music connects with me much more.

    I’d advise anyone to test drive ‘Southern Style’ first before deciding to part with their hard earned cash or make an impulsive purchase:
    https://play.spotify.com/album/50oUct44yIiBjlHSA6oveq

    Thanks Nick for your review. Happy Easter “Southern Style”

    • Nick Jarman says:

      Thanks a lot for your comment! In my notes on first listen of ‘Southern Style’ I had pretty much exactly what you said on there being not many stand-out singles. Since I don’t really consume singles I left the point out of the review, and focussed more on what makes the album ‘tick’, and in general fewer ‘singles’ is probably a good thing musically :P.
      I also agree with you when you say it is a bit dull. After a few more listens after writing the review, it does wear fairly quickly, but I think the stand-out songs like ‘I Sang’ really lift the album as a whole, and I think it is Darius’ smooth vocals that contributes to this, since in terms of vocal delivery there isn’t much variety on any of his albums. I think that’s what contributes to the style of music he produces not sounding that different between his 3 ‘country’ records.

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