Photo courtesy of Capitol Nashville

“I just wanted to go out and make a record that I’ve always wanted to make since I was a kid.” These words were spoken by Darius Rucker earlier in his multi-decade career, and now he has done just that and more. This past Tuesday, Rucker released True Believers, his fourth overall studio album and third set of country hits. Starting out as lead singer, rhythm guitarist and founder of Hootie & the Blowfish in 1986, Rucker has since experimented and delved into multiple avenues of the music industry.

After releasing five studio albums and obtaining a respectable six Top-40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 while in the legendary rock-and-roll band, Rucker went solo and released an R&B album, Back to Then, in 2002. Then, upon signing a record deal in Nashville, Rucker became the first African-American to chart a number one on the Hot Country Songs since 1983 with his debut single “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” on his first country album, Learn to Live. From there, the success sky-rocketed: popular radio tunes such as “It Won’t Be Like This for Long”, “History in the Making,” and “This” led Rucker to become the first African American to win the Country Music Association’s New Artist Award and become a true household name among country music fans.

While working on True Believers, Rucker received one of the greatest honors a country music star can hope for: while performing at the Grand Ole Opry, legendary country musician Brad Paisley interrupted Rucker and said, “I have two questions: one, are you still the worst poker player in the world? And two, would you like to become the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry?” Rucker accepted and was officially inducted on Oct. 16, 2012.

Now, much matured from his initial beginnings in country music in 2008, Rucker’s latest album blends his time-honored, soothing tones with some new spins. The album’s single, also titled “True Believers,” was released in August of 2012 and received positive feedback from country critics. Amazingly, Rucker wrote ten of the album’s twelve songs, with the exception of “Love Without You” and his rendition of the Bob Dylan tune made famous by Old Crow Medicine Show entitled “Wagon Wheel.”

Although “Wagon Wheel” has received some criticism from OCMS-lovers, there is no doubt that Darius puts a unique, unforgettable and still pleasurable spin on the old classic. Other tunes off of the album are equally notable: a mixture of deep and playful hits blends perfectly with Rucker’s rocker vibe and country twang.

Ultimately, on True Believers, Rucker seems to have become even more comfortable as a leader in the country music industry. As Rucker stated in a recent interview, “For this album, we really paid attention to what our friends and fans were telling us on the road. The result is an album that I’m so proud of because my fans really have been the true believers since I released my first single to country radio. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it on January 22.”