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Hootie's Darius Rucker was born to sing country

MODESTO -- If you pressed your ear to a bottle of Southern Comfort, Darius Rucker's voice is what you'd hear.

When Hootie and the Blowfish reached astronomical heights in 1994 with their debut CD “Cracked Rear View,” it was a case of the right band hitting the airwaves with the right sound, the right hook-filled tunes, at the right time.

Bands with a hard edge, as Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, Wheezer and Blur were achieving critical success in 1994, but operating well out of the mainstream's flow.

Hootie and the Blowfish, which began as a college bar band at the University of South Carolina, jumped right into the middle of that mainstream and rode it as hard as it could for 14 years on the strength of its singular unique quality — Rucker's instantly recognizable voice.

It was a feel-good baritone in a world of falsetto-strained tenors. In no way is it a typical rock voice. It's a country voice.

So the question isn't why Rucker put Hootie and the Blowfish on hiatus in 2008 to embark on a country career — it's why Rucker didn't start his career as a country act.

Rucker's third country solo album, “True Believers,” will be released next month, and he's already touring ahead of the CD drop.

In interviews, Rucker has said his desire to do a country album extended back to the days when Hootie and the Blowfish were still headlining arenas.

He broke the idea to his bandmates, who weren't interesting in crossing genres, and the idea was put on hold.

By 2008, Hootie and the Blowfish still could make a living on the road (and they continue playing four or five established charity gigs a year) but Rucker was ready to branch out.

He had recorded an R&B album in 2001 that barely made a ripple, but had a hunch he'd have more success as a country artist.

“I have been talking about making this record for as long as I can remember, even before I made the R&B record,” Rucker told blog critic Clayton Perry. “I started telling the guys in the band, 'I want to make a country record. Do you want to make a country record?'

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In this Jan. 1 photo, Darius Rucker sings the American National Anthem prior to the start of the Outback Bowl between South Carolina and Michigan at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

(MCT)

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