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GAC Album Review: Darius Rucker’s True Believers

Darius Rucker's 2013 album True Believers

Darius Rucker’s 2013 album True Believers. Photo courtesy of Capitol Records Nashville.

As his current single, “Wagon Wheel,” takes its place at the top of the country music charts, singer/songwriter Darius Rucker is releasing his third solo album for Capitol Records Nashville. True Believers, the follow up to his 2010 gold-certified record, Charleston, SC 1966, is a 12-song set once again showing that this man can craft and deliver a hook.

Darius catapulted to stardom in 1994 with the release of Cracked Rear View, the 16-times platinum debut by his first band Hootie & the Blowfish. Nearly 20 years later, Darius still maintains a prominent position in popular music, a feat nearly impossible without the ability to consistently grow as well as give fans what they want. On True Believers, in stores May 21, Darius manages to do both.

Working again with producer Frank Rogers (Trace Adkins, Josh Turner), Darius co-wrote 10 of the album’s songs with a heavy emphasis on matters of the heart. The lead single “True Believers” recounts successfully fighting for a marriage while the despondent, “I Will Love You Still,” carries sad lines like, you won’t stay, and you won’t fight. Swelling with emotion, songs on True Believers can go in different directions as the neatly-polished sound makes sure Darius’ friendly voice is always front and center.

Darius has an incredible knack for catchy and engaging hooks, which show up all over the record. “Miss You” fields a relaxing groove before an electric chorus asks where the magic went. On the nostalgic feel-good tune, “Radio,” funky keys support a Motown-leaning rhythm listeners can anticipate and “Heartbreak Road” infuses pop-laced melodies with a touch of Southern rock. With excellent timing, songs like the bluesy “Lost In You” (which features the album’s best storyline guitar riff), are easily relatable. It’s been all these years and I still hear your goodbye, he sings, giving voice to a memory many can identify with.

Like on “Lost In You,” True Believers has some deeply soulful moments. The Joe Cocker-influenced “Take Me Home,” with country soul piano, begs for a return to the South where Darius can get lost where I’m from and find myself again, to the accompaniment of a gospel chorus. One of the album’s best songs, “Leavin’ The Light On,” feeds off a comfortable and relaxed tempo with a minimalist chorus that understands sometimes less is more. And on his current single, a remake of the Old Crow Medicine Show modern-day classic, “Wagon Wheel,” Darius stretches into Americana territory with a loose, yet dynamic performance and a little help from Lady Antebellum on backing vocals.

The ultimate crowd sing-along, Darius’ version of “Wagon Wheel” maintains the feel of the original while opening up a few passages for improv. There’s a feeling of joy coursing through the track as the musicians get swept up in the song. And as the chorus, So rock me mama like a wagon wheel, repeats toward the end, there’s a sense that absolutely no one in the recording session wanted it to end. On True Believers, Darius departs with a friendly project willing to grow while also being easy to enjoy.

Key Tracks – “Leavin’ the Light On,” “Wagon Wheel,” “Take Me Home,” “Love Without You”

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