It is, of course, highly unhip to dig Hootie, the South Carolina frat-party band that broke into the big time in 1994 with its string of hit singles and a 15 million-selling album, Cracked Rear View, that remains one of the bestselling debuts in pop history. The critical beating that greeted the group's 1996 follow-up, Fairweather Johnson, was as inevitable as its sophomore sales slump—a mere 2 million albums sold. Still, for many, front man Darius Rucker's anthem-friendly baritone remains a guilty pleasure. And so it is here. But as nice as it is to hear him emote, the vague imagery of the lyrics make you wonder what exactly is making his poor heart ache so. "I Will Wait," the album's first single, sounds an awful lot like the hits from the first Hootie album, all of which sounded pretty much alike themselves. In it and many of the other tunes here, Rucker is waiting and wishing that an elusive love will finally love him back. In concert the Hooties deliver rousing versions of tunes like the Georgia Satellite's "Keep Your Hands to Yourself." Those moments make us wish the boys would stop straying from their origins as a knockout covers band.
Bottom Line: Arena-ready vocals in service of lackluster tunes