An odd correlation seems to exist between mass popular appeal and critical acclaim. In fact, in some circles it seems to be a foregone conclusion that artists who are immensely popular lack substance, nutritional content, or, in other words, produce artistic fast food. Even though there are a handful of brilliant artists who have been simultaneously recognized critically while achieving standout commercial success (Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill, The Police, U2, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole), the myriad of studio-created lip-synchers on the music scene unfortunately reinforce the somewhat elitist assumption that if the masses are buying it in droves, then it must be musical cotton candy.
As the parade of one-hit wonders in the music business rolls on, it's easy to see how with the explosive popularity of Hootie & The Blowfish's first album (“Cracked Rear View” is tied as the largest selling U.S. debut album of all time), the story of the success of the group often became the phenomenon itself. When things reach this level of popularity, the focus often becomes more and more about celebrity, and less about talent; hence, the wide coverage focused on the novelty of "this black guy in front of an all white band." Even though a few critics lauded the distinctive, rich and soulful tone of Darius Rucker as the centerpiece of Hootie & The Blowfish at the beginning of their rise, I suspect some of the public who were aware of this often-found "odd correlation" began to tune out as the band began their meteoric rise. Even though I appreciated Darius' voice and was happy to see his success in this unique role, I count myself among this group.
I first became aware that Darius was recording a solo project when he expressed his desire to record with our debut artist, Jill Scott. Even though one of the most important reasons for the formation of Hidden Beach Recordings was to create a mythical place of artistic freedom where traditional musical categories could be ignored, I was a little curious and suspect when I heard Darius was out to create an "R&B record." I became much more curious than suspect after receiving excited calls from Jill, her manager, Bill Brown, and producers Vidal Harris and Andre Harris the night the record was being cut. When the song arrived in California the anticipation was high based on those calls from Philly, but earlier descriptions couldn't match the mouth-dropping awe of the richness of Darius' voice on the track. I appreciated his voice before, but all too aware of the "odd correlation," I admit I never truly appreciated this special gift millions already loved until that moment.
Hopefully, this first solo offering by Darius will have the same affect on many others who have perhaps been blinded by the historic success of Hootie, to now be able to hear without distraction one of the most distinctive voices recording today. Hootie's loyal followers, who knew they had discovered a special front man despite their huge popularity, will be able to laugh at the rest of us who now gush in amazement at the power of a Darius Rucker performance. I've now been able to join their ranks and have been getting a kick out of watching the audiences during the small, intimate performances Darius has done leading up to the release of this project. Die-hard Hootie fans usually sit up front and pay rapt attention, often mouthing the words to even the unreleased material, and the part of the audience only mildly familiar with the Blowfish phenomenon but largely unfamiliar with Darius' talents usually camp out toward the back of the crowd. At the beginning of each show it is very easy to tell the difference between the two groups. At the show's conclusion, from the sound of the cheers for an encore, there's no telling the difference between long-time Darius fans and the newly initiated: all are usually unified as one, standing to show appreciation of the highest order. In fact, quite often the back-of-the-house folks are first to jump to their feet. Whichever one of these two groups you find yourself in, we hope listening to this project will bring you to your feet in appreciation of one of the most passionate voices of this generation.
We are blessed and proud to be able to bring you such unique talent.