By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Now that his old VH1 compatriot Rob Thomas has traded the namby-pamby roots-pop with which he once conquered every sports bar in America for a sexed-up disco-rock useful for seducing daughters of Mick Jagger, it's up to Darius Rucker to prove there's still an appetite for inoffensive heartland aphorisms set to handsome, tuneful chunk-strum. (Actually, considering his 2002 neo-soul solo disc and the arty, sexed-up Burger King spot he starred in earlier this yearas a bejeweled rodeo singer under the direction of glam-king photog David LaChapelleRucker has to prove that predigested oatmeal is still his bag too.)
Not to worry: Looking for Lucky, the first album of new Blowfish material since last year's Atlantic-era best-of, is as familiar and reassuring as a rerun of Best Week Ever. Inevitably, Rucker and his bandmates don't sound as major league as they used to, but that's not necessarily a handicap. There's a hard-won farm team warmth to the accurately titled "Waltz Into Me" and "Leaving," about Rucker standing near the ocean in his birthday suit (an image even LaChapelle might resist). As the singer observes in "State Your Peace," "It's like driving down the middle of the road with no hands on the wheel."
Hootie & the Blowfish play the North Fork Theatre in Westbury, NY, August 28.