I’m usually one to associate music strongly with a certain time or trend. When I think of the ’90s I often think of the rise of polished working class rock. The Dave Mathews Band and Ben Harpers of the music world represent a kind of coming of age music for a generation of middle class types who were in the prime of the earning years.
Years ago it would have been Bruce Springsteen or Bob Seeger that might have represented the ambitions of factory workers. By the ’90s, this new post industrial yuppie often had the benefit of a college education and the professional life that could come with it. In the past they might have been Paul Simon or James Taylor fans. Now they could be Jon Mayer or Ben Harper devotees.
By the middle of the decade, this groups night on the town soundtrack was likely to include Hootie and the Blowfish. The Columbia, South Carolina band seemed to have come out of nowhere with its first single “Hold My Hand”. The happy, uplifting and soulful sound was as familiar as a favorite pair of worn jeans. Bits of pop, jangle, indie, blues were all wrapped up with the soulful voice of Darius Rucker on top. While the band was only four members it would grow and contract with contributions from an organ player and even a violinist (much like the Dave Matthews Band).
What a difference a year made. In 1993, the band self released an EP recorded at the Charlotte based Reflection Studios. Reflection was where REM (and many others) would get their start. Those indie rock roots would carry through to Cracked Rear View, the band’s first LP.
Much of the album had become fair game for Top 40 radio, although it started out on Modern Rock before it blew up. The rapid popularity of the first single would lead to four others. While none of the singles reached #1, the album itself remained at the top of the charts long enough that the band had become a household name. The band’s appeal was multi-generational, but had a special attraction for young to near middle-aged adults.
Much of the band’s attractiveness stemmed from Rucker’s voice. It was equally adept at the soulful (“Let Her Cry”) as it was with the playful (“Only Wanna Be with You”). The multi-genre multi-racial mix of the band was in keeping with the New South element they represented. The Southern rock of “Running from an Angel” or “Drowning” sounded natural next to more indie rock numbers like “Look Away”.
Cracked Rear View would have an enormous impact on rootsy indie pop. It’s impact on Hootie and the Blowfish would be such that the band would need some time to record a follow-up a few years later. Later Rucker would explore his influences (and the resolve of so-called New South attitudes) by releasing both a R&B album in 2002 and a country one in 2008.
The music of choice of the yuppie’s Saturday night in the city experience had begun to pass to Dave Matthews as the two bands had a similar core audience.
Cracked Rear View would become a difficult act to follow for Hootie and the Blowfish. By the early Ohs, it was becoming apparent that the band’s impact was decreasing. After their last album in 2005, the band went on a hiatus while Rucker continued his country music solo career.