Earlier this year, Darius Rucker returned to the UK to perform on the C2C: Country to Country stage. He was the penultimate act on the Main Stage for Day 2 and a lot of fans felt he would have made a better headliner than Reba McEntire did. Over the past few years, Rucker has built a fervent fanbase on this side of the pond and it seems us Brits just can’t get enough of him. Following on from his successful C2C appearance, Rucker recently released his seventh studio album When Was the Last Time, the follow-up to 2015’s Southern Style.
For the First Time opens the album and it’s typical Darius Rucker with a feel-good beat opening out into a bigger chorus. Rucker’s soulful vocal remains as distinctive as ever and it’s a solid start to the record. From that point on When Was the Last Time is a collection of radio-ready songs that don’t stray far from what Rucker has released before. Lead single If I Told You tries something a bit different but for me it sounds too wordy in the verses and a bit clumsy.
Straight to Hell, which features Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Charles Kelley, is one of the strongest moments on the record. It’s a little looser and steps away from the polish of much of Rucker’s music. I’d have preferred to hear a full album more in that direction than much of the material on here. Count the Beers is another moment that stands out with Rucker embracing tradition, which really suits him.
One of the issues with the album is it’s not all that different from anything Rucker has done before. Clearly he’s got a formula that works for him and he’s sticking closely to it but for me the lack of progression is problematic. Songs like Bring It On are enjoyable enough but they don’t really make you feel much. It’s Rucker by the numbers and certainly doesn’t capture the energy of his live shows.
Some of the ballads sound interchangeable too. Twenty Something and Hands On Me sound very similar sonically, highlighting a lack of variety across the record. There are a few too many ballad-type songs across the 12 tracks included here.
When Was the Last Time is an enjoyable record but it’s not one of Rucker’s best. I can understand sticking to a well-worn formula, especially when it works so well for him but I would have liked to hear a few more risks. Rucker is a serious talent and he has quite the catalogue of hits to prove it but for me he’s yet to make a truly spectacular album where the singles aren’t the best moments.
Track list: 1. For the First Time 2. Bring It On 3. Life’s Too Short 4. If I Told You 5. Don’t 6. Twenty Something 7. Straight to Hell 8. Count the Beers 9. Another Night With You 10. Hands on Me 11. She 12. Story to Tell Record label: Humphead Country Release date: 20th October 2017