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'90s hitmakers Hootie and the Blowfish are back

Jon Bream, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Entertainment News

MINNEAPOLIS -- Hootie is back! And don't forget: The singer's name isn't Hootie.

It's Darius Rucker, and he's been a big country star for the past decade. He never went away.

But his band, '90s hitmakers Hootie and the Blowfish, has returned in full force, with a new album due in November -- its first in 14 years -- and its most ambitious tour in more than a decade.

"There was not a year that went by when we didn't play," said Rucker. "We played four or five charity shows every year."

But the current Group Therapy Tour is a big deal, visiting 44 cities to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the mega-album "Cracked Rear View" -- and to tell everyone: "We're back."

"We talked about it at the 20th anniversary. We talked about it at our charity gigs," said Rucker, 52. "It just seemed like the right time."

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Even though "Cracked Rear View" is the 10th biggest-selling album of all time in the United States, the record may be as reviled as beloved.

Just as punk offered an antidote to the tamed-down '70s rock of Rod Stewart and the Eagles, "Cracked" was a response to the angst-ridden grunge rock that dominated the early '90s. Arriving three months after Nirvana's Kurt Cobain died by suicide, Hootie's album was Southern-tinged roots rock, a sound that might be dubbed as Americana today.

A musical omnivore, Rucker knew grunge. Ask him to name his favorite tune in that genre and he gushes over the phone about a Stone Temple Pilots hit: "Oh, my goodness, 'Interstate Love Song.' I still think it's one of the greatest songs I've ever heard."

But goodbye grunge, hello Hootie. The South Carolina quartet dominated radio in 1995-96 with such songs as "Let Her Cry," won the Grammy for best new artist and filled big venues with its amiable frat-party vibe.

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