By Allison Stewart
It turns out it wasn't that difficult for Darius Rucker to make the transition from frontman of the frat party pop band Hootie and the Blowfish to solo country star. His second country disc, "Charleston, SC 1966," mostly sounds like a really good Hootie record with fiddles and a more pronounced Southern accent.
Fifteen years ago, the ascension of an AfricanAmerican pop singer into the country Top Ten would have been unthinkable. These days, the boundaries between country and pop are so porous, Rucker's crossover career seems remarkably unremarkable.
"Charleston, SC 1966" (named for the date and place of Rucker's birth) solidifies rather than expands the sound of his '08 country debut, "Learn to Live." It's solid and genial, with the low-key hooks and bland charms of a Hootie album, painted by numbers.
There are songs extolling married love ("Might Get Lucky"), generic Nashville-lite songs about girl ogling ("I Don't Care" with Brad Paisley, not in his finest hour) and songs asserting Rucker's Southern country boy-ness ("Southern State of Mind"). Because he's Southern, you know. In case you had forgotten. And the album's title wasn't enough to remind you.
Rucker may occasionally protest too much, but he's also confident enough to comfortably dispatch a '70s AM, Haggard/Charley Pride-style ballad like "Whiskey and You," perhaps the only track here without even a whiff of pop. It won't make you love him unless you loved him already, but it's impossible to dislike.
Recommended tracks: "Whiskey and You," "Come Back Song"