Darius Rucker certainly had the odds stacked against him when beginning the recording process for his second country album, Charleston, SC 1966. The follow-up to his platinum country debut, 2008’s Learn To Live, had a lot to live up to. After amassing four hit singles, three of which went all the way to number one, pulling off another successful country album may have seemed daunting to most artists. Fortunately, it seems Rucker has managed to do just that by capturing lightning in a bottle for the second time.
The new album, which is aptly named in the same fashion as Rucker’s musical idol Radney Foster’s Del Rio, TX 1959, more than lives up to its predecessor’s accomplishments. Beginning with the lead off track, “This,” Rucker sings about how all the events of his life, no matter how big or small, have played a significant role in where his life has taken him. The song is indicative of the album’s 13 songs, which includes great lyrics underscored with healthy doses of mandolin, banjo, fiddle and steel guitar.
Included here is the current hit, “Come Back Song,” a country radio staple during the summer, in which he sings, “I’m the backside of a mule.” Although Rucker has never kept his love of country music a secret, he seems more than comfortable in the genre with this release. The aforementioned tune is followed by the upbeat and catchy, “Might Get Lucky,” which talks about a husband and wife trying to find a way to spend some ‘special alone time together’ and sounds as if it is ready to leap off the record and onto country radio playlists.
“Whiskey and You,” is not just another drinking song, but instead it is a beautiful and heartfelt ballad. “I keep coming back to whiskey and you,” Rucker admits in this album highlight, which is every bit as good if not better than anything included on his previous album.
One of the particularly striking standouts included here is, “Southern State of Mind,” which fits perfectly with the album’s theme. “No changing who I am / No matter what state I’m in / I’m in a southern state of mind / Back home in Carolina,” Rucker confesses.
“The sky starts spinning when our heads get above the clouds,” Rucker sings in “We All Fall Down.” This track is sure to be a treat for longtime fans of the artist, since it bares the most resemblance to one of Hootie and the Blowfish’s best ballads.
Additional album highlights are “I Don’t Care” and “She’s Beautiful.” The former is a humorous duet with label mate Brad Paisley and is delivered in Paisley’s often playful lyrical style. This upbeat tune about late night partying will surely be in heavy rotation in the not so distant future in country bars and radio alike. Followed by the mid-tempo, “She’s Beautiful,” which may be Rucker’s best vocal performance to date, this song has hit written all over it. Even with lyrics such as, “I’ll love her ‘til the day I die / I’m one lucky man,” Rucker manages to pull this modern love song off successfully, without sounding sappy.
The album closes with the fitting, “In A Big Way,” which returns to the album’s hometown theme. “I need some front porch rocking / Back road walking / Some biscuits cooking in the oven,” sings Rucker gleefully. He continues on to say, “I need some hanging ‘round my little town in a big way,” which ends things on a perfect note.
Charleston, SC 1966 is full of potential hits that will more than satisfy old and new fans alike. It seems his entire career has led up to the making of this album. Frank Rogers’ winning production style more than suits the material presented here, all of which was co-written by Rucker, along with some of the best writers Nashville has to offer. This is more than just a solid effort, it truly is a great country record.