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."
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.