Flash back five years. Mortal Kombat was the game of choice, Waterworld was a bad choice, and one band was the only choice. No one could escape the captivating "Hootie-mania." With the highest selling debut record since the Beatles, Hootie & the Blowfish stormed out of the bars of South Carolina and into the soundtrack of popular culture. The cause of the phenomenon remains unexplained. Maybe it was the funky name or catchy tunes. Whatever the cause, Hootie & the Blowfish is a part of every Americanís life. It stands true that virtually every Joe and Jane Hoya has a copy of Cracked Rear View and can rattle off a refrain of "Only Wanna Be With You" at a momentís notice.
Well, a few months and 16 million records later, the public grew tired of the gravelly vocals and memorable melodies of this quartet. With four singles filling the airwaves, Hootie & The Blowfish began losing its appeal. For most of the public, this is where the Hootie saga ends. Everyone knows that if youíre not on TRL, youíre just not cool. So letís catch up with the Palmetto State rockers.
To prove to the world (and maybe themselves) that Hootie & The Blowfish is not a one-CD wonder, the band released its sophomore effort, ironically titled Fairweather Johnson. Critics panned this musically mature offering, but it still went platinum four times over. The Fairweather Johnson title is fitting, as many followers created Hootieís True Fan Johnson club to prove that they are not fairweather fans.
In 1998, the band released Musical Chairs, its third album,which showcased every aspect of the bandís musical abilities. With contributions like the rocking "I Will Wait" and moody "Only Lonely" (the focal point of Kevin Costnerís Message in a Bottle), Hootie & The Blowfish proved it was still producing great music while retaining its unique flavor. Thanks to new songs and a large publicity campaign, Musical Chairs began to reintroduce Hootie to the collective conscious of American music.
That brings us to the present day, where Hootie & The Blowfish is about to release its fourth album, Scattered, Smothered, and Covered. Unlike its first three records, which featured solely Hootie-penned lyrics and music, the new album is a collection of covers from some of the groupís favorite bands. To some, it may look like a failing effort from a fading band, but with one listen all doubts will be discarded. Scattered, Smothered, and Covered is the bandís tribute to their fans, who have stuck with them through the less-popular years. While still in production, Hootie let the fans choose five songs to complete the album by voting through various internet sites. All the songs are either concert favorites, selections from movie soundtracks, or B-sides which all gel to form a powerful new record very reminiscent of Cracked Rear View. The opening strains of Radney Fosterís "Fine Line" bring the listener back to 1995 and the music that first sparked the worldís obsession with the band. The light folk-rock tunes continue with their rendition of "I Go Blind," by 54-40, which was featured in the "Friends" episode where Monica receives a hickey from "a Blowfish." Excluding the offerings covered from R.E.M. ("Driver 8") and Led Zepplin ("Hey, Hey What Can I Do"), the selection of songs should be fairly new to most listeners.
The album takes a more melancholy tone with "Let Me Be Your Man" by Kim Richey and "Renaissance Eyes," by Don Dixon (arguably one of the most powerful songs ever recorded.) The slower songs highlight the talent of lead singer Darius Rucker, while the more up-beat recordings showcase the talents of Mark Bryan on guitars, Dean Felber on bass and drummer Jim "Soni" Sonefeld. Fittingly, the album winds down with Hootie excelling where a great bar band should: jamming. Edwin McCain joins the Hootie guys with a powerful rendition of Bill Withersí "Use Me" closing out the album.
This fourth effort from the South Carolina rockers brings the band full circle. All who fawned over their initial release will love the similar sounds of Scattered, Smothered, and Covered, while the true fans will appreciate the new renditions of Hootieís great concert sets. So anybody who still can warble "Let Her Cry" should go out on Oct. 24 and purchase the newest release from Hootie & The Blowfish. And if you truly want to see the band at its greatest, drop by the 9:30 Club on Sunday, Oct. 29 when "Americaís Greatest Bar Band" comes to the capital. If youíre still not convinced that Hootie & The Blowfish are back, tune in to TRL in two weeks and Carson Daly will tell you that theyíre still cool.