Darius Rucker came to prominence in the music world as the frontman of Hootie & The Blowfish in the 1990s. Although still together as a band (releasing their last album in 2019), a ten year hiatus in 2008 gave Rucker the opportunity to embark on his country solo career with Capitol Music Nashville, and he continues to release country under the same label to this day, with the South Carolina native racking up a string of hits and awards, and Carolyn’s Boy is his sixth country album released. The subject of the title, Carolyn, is Rucker’s mother. Although she died over thirty years ago, Rucker wrote this album as a tribute to her – as Rucker said of the album “It’s me just being who she raised me to be.”
The opening track on the album, Beers and Sunshine, was released as a single back in 2020, charting at 42 on the Billboard 100. A laidback, cheerful track laden with references to Darius’ mother and a well-constructed piece it is too. Following on, In This Together provides a lovely upbeat message, desiring unity and tolerance of our differences, while Never Been Over is more down tempo, with a stripped back, folk feel. Fires Don’t Start Themselves is what I would consider an archetypal country song of the new millennia, and is the precursor to the only collaboration on the album, Ol’ Church Hymn, featuring the trio Chapel Hart.
Some lovely slide guitar introduces the slower swing tempo of 7 Days with some pining, regret-tinged storytelling, and subsequent track Same Beer Different Problem is melodically upbeat with deceptive melancholy lyrics, with comforting drinking tropes woven in well.
Sara (co-written by, amongst others, Ed Sheeran) provides some nostalgic longing, as does Sure Would Have Loved Her, songs lodged either side of upbeat country-pop number Have a Good Time. A lovely use of play of words all the way through Southern Comfort, whilst we experience some fine storytelling in 3am in Carolina, which leans on Rucker’s life of traveling around on tour whilst missing his home state. Penultimate track Lift Me Up is another slow, almost ballad-like track, and Rucker rounds off the album with Stargazing, a beautifully sentimental song which Kacey Musgraves would be proud of.
In Carolyn’s Boy, Darius Rucker has managed to make a satisfying addition to the more pop side of modern country. It’s a relatively traditional piece of work and a pleasant addition to any county fan’s musical library, without testing the edges of their musical palate – it’s a very safe bet of an album in that regard, and as good an album for the first-time country listener as it is for the mainstream country enthusiast.