Former Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker's 2008 album Learn to Live was a surprise hit, reaching No. 1 on the country charts. He even snagged a CMA Award for Best New Artist. The follow-up wisely travels the same twangy path. Rucker's country comes naturally — he was raised in the South Carolina city in the album's title. He's more Kenny Chesney than Jamey Johnson, writing and singing songs about good friends and good times — just like Hootie used to do. And if the notion that a black guy who once led the whitest rock band of the '90s is now one of the nation's top country music stars seems a bit absurd, Rucker proves himself from the very first notes. Loaded with pedal steel, mandolins, and mid-tempo dashboard pounders like "This" and "Come Back Song," Charleston, SC 1966 views America through a dusty windshield. Cracked rearview optional. — Gallucci
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