Darby Shaw gives us more information than anyone would ever care to have about Hootie from Hootie and the Blowfish, leading up to his solo country album, Learn To LiveDarius Rucker

   We are in the midst of a cross-marketing Babylon.  Musical whores are jumping across genres to sell albums left and right, and country music is the biggest beneficiary.  First, Sheryl Crow had a brief fling with the twangy stuff.  Then, Jewel went over to the dark side.  Even Jessica Simpson, whose deeply moving pop lyrics should have guaranteed her a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has crossed the border.  And today, I offer you the greatest travishamockery in the history of music:

   Darius Rucker has gone country.

   In case you don’t recognize the name, Darius is Hootie of “Hootie & The Blowfish” fame. 

   Yes, that guy.  The African-American guy with the shaved head and gravely voice. 

   You probably thought Hootie and his Blowfish were dead, since you haven’t heard anything from them in over a decade.  For those of you who haven’t kept track, here’s a brief musical history.

  • 1994: Hootie & The Blowfish release “Cracked Rear View.”  Approximately six gajillion people buy it worldwide.  Every household in America gets at least one copy (go ahead, look through your collection–I’ll wait.  I know it’s there).  New immigrants are issued a copy upon completing their citizenship requirements.  McDonalds hands them out in Happy Meals.  Methadone clinics hand out copies along with clean needles.  Every single goddamn track from the CD is released to radio; “Only Wanna Be With You” is released twice somehow.  Radio stations all across the land change formats to “All Hootie, all the time.” 
  • 1996: Hootie and company release “Fairweather Johnson.”  3 billion people worldwide buy the CD.  99% of them say, “What the hell is this crap?” and promptly throw it away.  Hootie releases a song with subliminal messaging, causing everybody to forget that the CD was released in the first place.
  • 1998: “Musical Chairs” is released.  14 people buy the CD; all of them are related by blood to a member of the band.  3 of them die in suspicious circumstances with the message “I’m too ashamed to live anymore” taped to their chests. 
  • 2000: The band releases “Scattered, Smothered, and Covered,” an album of covers of other bands’ music.  Unfortunately, they choose to cover bad songs done by good musicians.  They release their cover of some Canadian band’s “I Go Blind” to the radio.  Americans, who are gloriously unaware that the song belongs to someone else (I mean, really… who’s ever heard of 54-40?), make it the band’s next hit.  There is a huge resurgence of interest in the band’s music, which lasts approximately four days.
  • 2002: Darius Rucker releases a solo album, apparently convinced that the Blowfish are holding him back.  The album is titled “Back to Then,” with no indication about when “Then” was; it is presumed to be a time when the band was making money.  Darius gets a little mandatory air-time and MTV time, as a band member going solo usually manages to make some waves.  Hell, it worked for Rob Thomas and Gwen Stefani.  It sells -37 copies (yes, that’s a negative sign).  The record label forces Hootie to release a public apology for creating such dreck. 
  • 2003: Hootie and the Blowfish release a self-titled album, five albums into their career.  The band hopes to cash in on name recognition, since their actual music has been largely unsuccessful in garnering attention.  The album is bought by .25 people (yes, that’s a decimal point).  That CD is promptly taken to a used music store, and traded straight up for a copy of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s CD.  Apparently the shop owner was desperate. 
  • 2004: Hootie and the Blowfish release their Greatest Hits CD.  My wife buys it, causing the cashier at Best Buy to say, “Seriously?  You want to pay for this?  We’re giving them away, they’re right next to the ‘500 Free Hours of AOL’ disks.”  She buys it anyway, bringing the total sales of the record up to 1.  Upon further inspection, it is determined that the Greatest Hits CD is actually just “Cracked Rear View” repackaged with “I Go Blind” as a bonus track. 
  • 2005: The band offers up “Looking for Lucky.”  They consider calling it “Looking for Day Jobs,” but that title is dismissed as not desperate-sounding enough.  Sales figures are never released, as it is determined that it’s not worth the labor cost of tasking an accountant to it for fifteen minutes.
  • 2006: “Live in Charleston” is released, a live album recorded in 2005.  Rumors quickly surface that it is simply the Greatest Hits CD with crowd noise mixed in, when reporters discover that no Hootie & The Blowfish concert actually took place on the alleged performance date.  It is later discovered that Darius Rucker was in the middle of a commercial shoot for Burger King that day.  

   That brings us to the current day.  According to Darius, he’s now getting to do music that he’s always wanted to do.  Apparently, those other nine albums with which he was involved were just a fad, a way to pay the bills (in the case of Cracked Rear View) or not pay the bills (in the cases of all the others) until he could get a foothold in Nashville.  And today, at long last, his chance has arrived, without him even having to sign up for the reality show “Nashville Star.” 

   I will admit, I was a little disappointed at the album title.  How could you not go with something like “Hootie-nanny” or “Hootie Hoedown” with this CD?  You need something that’s going to appeal to both ends of the spectrum, here.  “Learn to Live” is annoyingly vague, for one, and will catch a lot of people off guard who are expecting another (lame) rock solo effort from Mr. Rucker. 

   The album should be a great success on the country charts, however.  It has as much southern drawl as any good ol’ boy could ask for.  Rucker’s voice picks up a twang as naturally as Keith Urban or Shania Twain.  I mean, if an Aussie and a Canuck can fake a twang, surely a Charlestonian can manage it.  The song “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” should be retitled with “Dawn’t” instead of “Don’t.”  And he has his country grammar (err, the Garth Brooks version, not the Nelly version) down to a science; Gs are dropped from gerunds, as the classically-titled “Drinkin’ and Dialin'” proves.  There is also a liberal sprinkling of “aint’s” and double-negatives throughout the record.  In fact, his vocal conversion is so convincing, I don’t think COUNTRY artists sound as country as Hootie does. 

   Of course, Rucker hits all relevant social issues of country music, like women, and… lovin’ women… and leavin’ women… and missin’ women somethin’ awful.  I did not detect any songs about dogs or mamas, but admittedly I went into a musically-induced coma partway through the album.  One can only assume references to beer and pickup trucks are hidden somewhere amongst the songs. 

Song you should buy on iTunes for $1, rather than downloading for free:  “Alright.”  This may be the greatest song to ever come from the lips of a rich and famous musician.  The song is basically a celebration of the simple things in life… he doesn’t need reservations at a fancy restaurant, he’s got spaghetti and cheap wine!  He don’t got no caviar and Dom Perignon, he’s a simple man!  He’s got a roof over his head and the love of a woman, that’s all he needs.  Of course, the fact that the roof is attached to a palace, and the woman is a hottie who worked in the music business, are just little extra perks (along with the millions of dollars and platinum records).  He’s keeping it real, y’all!   

Rating: 5 TenderCrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch sandwiches. 

I know, I know.  You’re scratching your head, right?  How could this utter pile of crap warrant a five-of-five rating?  To be honest, musically speaking, it’s a 1.  Or maybe a 0.  Possibly a -3.  But on the unintentional comedy scale, it’s off the charts.  It’s everything that is cheesey and hokey about country music, performed by the least likely country musician since… well, ever.  The fact that Hootie appears to have whole-heartedly and unabashedly embraced this genre makes the purchase price worthwhile.  After you listen a time or two, sell it to a country music fan.  If you know any.  That will admit to it publicly.

(By the way… no word yet whether The Blowfish have asked Toby Keith to be their new front-man.)