I’m going to be honest to start this one out. The last studio album from Darius Rucker, Southern Style, was by far my favorite of all of solo his projects. It was easily the most traditional record of his career, but from a sales standpoint, there was a little bit of a drop off. The album only spawned one major hit, “Homegrown Honey,” so you had to figure that the singer would veer off in a different direction for his fifth Capitol Nashville studio album. And, when it was announced that he would be teaming up with Ross Copperman, I was a bit alarmed. Copperman has made some great records over the years, but I thought that this album would be a little more progressive than what I loved so much about his last one.
After listening to the record a number of times, I’ve got to say that I can rest those fears, as Copperman has surrounded the singer with a production element that focuses on his strengths as never before, but at the same time, gives radio something fresh and exciting to play. Tracks such as the title cut, “Bring It On,” and “Don’t” all have a fun vibe to them that should bounce off the airwaves or the CD player / phone, and make you want to roll down the windows and sing along – especially the latter track.
There are also cuts that veer a little deeper, such as the set’s first single, “If I Told You,” which has already topped the chart. In the sincere ballad performance, the singer is expressing how grateful and unworthy he feels to have the woman in his life that he does, and the result is one of the top performances of Rucker’s career. The entertainer also takes a moment to pause and reflect on the simpler moments in life in meaningful tracks such as “Life’s Too Short” and “Twenty Something,” which will captivate your attention and have you shaking your head in agreement, regardless of your age. It’s a sentiment that will likely have many of his fans identifying with the song’s heartfelt lyrics about the passing of time.
There’s some incredible star power on the cover of Drivin N Cryin’s “Straight To Hell,” that sounds nothing like the original. In fact, the track, featuring Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Charles Kelley, sounds like it could be a modern-day hillbilly version of “The Rat Pack” with each performer sounding like they are having the time of their life on the song.
There are also moments on When Was The Last Time that are even more country, such as the Bluegrass-tinged “She,” and the George Strait vibe of tracks such as “Count The Beers” (co-written with Josh Thompson and Strait’s “Ace In The Hole,” Dean Dillon) and the smoldering sensual feel of “Hands On Me,” which has potential to be a major hit from this album. It’s got a soulful groove to it, very similar to some of Conway Twitty’s best work of the late 1980s. Rucker handles it with ease.
The album closes with the celebratory feel of “Story To Tell,” about how blessed Rucker feels to be living the life that he is. Sometimes, an artist needs a new producer to shake things up just enough to keep things interesting. Copperman did just that here, steering an album that should ensure that Darius Rucker will continue to have a “Story To Tell” for many more years!