In his hugely successful second act as a country singer, the artist formerly known as Hootie has proved he's as solidly likable as any dude in Nashville. On his fourth solo country album, Rucker is warm and easygoing, more buddy than bro, winningly carrying bar-hopping honky-tonk ("Good for a Good Time"), down-home anthems ("Half Full Dixie Cup") and low-sung ballads ("You Can Have Charleston"). Of course, as the biggest African-American country artist in decades, he also brings a mildly utopian cast to songs like the endearing "Southern Style," about a good ol' girl who loves Lil Wayne and Lynyrd Skynyrd and "keeps her tan lines in the winter." You can't front on that.
Southern Style isn't the first time Darius Rucker has had to follow a massive success. Twenty years earlier, he had to find a way forward from Hootie & the Blowfish's smash debut Cracked Rear View and in 2015, he's tasked with finding a sequel to "Wagon Wheel," the 2013 megahit that defined his solo career. Old pro that he now is, Rucker decides to play it cool on Southern Style, never quite gunning for an outright replica of the shambling, singalong charm of "Wagon Wheel" but not running from it, either.