Hootie & the Blowfish: Yet Another Worship Temple

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Hootie & the Blowfish Expand Horizons On Musical Chairs

Hootie and the Blowfish "It took a while to get everyone back on the same page," recalls Hootie & the Blowfish bassist Dean Felber. "Everybody writes in different styles, and at first it felt really disjointed. We were coming from all different directions, wondering, 'Are we going to be able to bring this together again for another record?' But by the time we went in the studio in April, everything was rockin'."

The result is the band's new album, titled Musical Chairs -- due Sept. 15 on Atlantic. The band kicked off a series of promotional activities surrounding the album on Thursday (July 16) when they performed an in-studio, live- to- Internet mini- concert that was seen and heard in the DigitalArena area of the Atlantic Web site at www.atlantic-records.com.

Hootie played two songs from Musical Chairs, which, Felber tells allstar, was recorded after the guys took a well- deserved break. "We took a year off," he says, "and everybody went back and started hanging with their families and chilling and seeing the other side of life."

Felber says that after the hiatus, which was pretty much the first time off they had enjoyed since the release of 1994's double- Grammy- winning Cracked Rear View album, it took the four of them (Felber, singer Darius Rucker, guitarist Mark Bryan, drummer Soni Sonefeld) some time to get back in the band groove.

Musical Chairs -- which features appearances from Dave Matthews Band violin and sax players Boyd Tinsley and Leroi Moore, former dB's member Peter Holsapple on keys and mandolin, and vocalist Susan Cowsill of the Cowsills and Continental Drifters -- was recorded over about six weeks at Royaltone Studios in Burbank, California. And like their previous two No. 1 albums, it was produced by Don Gehman, who's also worked with R.E.M., John Mellencamp, and Bruce Hornsby.

Felber says there was a concerted effort on the band's part to expand their musical horizons this time. "You can hear a lot of diversity on this record, more so than on the first two. There was some new direction on [1996's Fairweather Johnson], but it wasn't really clear where we were headed. This time we literally have a bluegrass song going into a song with an R&B feel to it. It's a little more obvious where our influences are leaning this time around. And we have the luxury, with Darius' voice, that no matter where we go directionally, it's going to sound like us."

In addition to the songs on Musical Chairs, Felber says the band also recorded a number of extras for B-sides, including what he calls a haunting version of R.E.M.'s "Driver 8" and "Francis" by defunct Carolina band Dillon Fence.

Last week, Hootie & the Blowfish taped a performance for VH1's Hard Rock Live series, which will air at a future, still- undetermined date. On Friday (July 17), Hootie performed outdoors in New York City's Rockefeller Plaza as part of NBC's Today Show summer concert series. And on Saturday (July 18), the band will perform live as part of the Goodwill Games Opening Celebration. Taking place at the World Financial Center Plaza in New York's Battery Park City, the gala event will be broadcast live by TBS Superstation beginning at 8:05 PM (EDT).

Hootie & the Blowfish also have commitments to perform on upcoming episodes of The Late Show with David Letterman, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, and CBS This Morning.

On the tour front, a month of album release shows will begin Sept. 15 in New York, followed by European dates and a full U.S. tour with Jump Little Children opening. Jump Little Children is the first act signed to Hootie's own Breaking Records label.

Hootie & the Blowfish: Yet Another Worship Temple
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