Darius Rucker — “It Won’t Be Like This for Long”

Released: 11.3.08

Peak: #36

Apparently, to become the biggest black country star since Charley Pride you’ve first got to become the biggest black rock star since … Hendrix maybe? Ever? Neither of Darius Rucker’s ascents to the top seemed as world historical as it might have. Miffed at the revelation that R.E.M. and the NFL had so many fans in common, cool people defensively mocked the Hootie and the Blowfish front man for failing to be appropriately black. And when Rucker released Learn to Live a decade later, the same folks shrugged that Nashville was the ideal final destination for such a square anyway.

Like Rucker’s first country hit, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” a reservedly regretful song about leaving a busted relationship, “It Won’t Be Like This for Long” centers around a semantic subtlety too mild to be called wordplay. The antecedent for “this” shifts over time, referring serially to life with a squalling newborn, a clingy preschooler, and a defiant teen; the narrator stoically imagines his future nostalgia for each trying bit of upheaval. Rucker makes raising a child sound incredibly easy, just a matter of exercising patience and allowing the kid to develop. He and his song doctors, Ashley Gorley and Chris DuBois, have the same light touch with lyrics, eschewing verbal dazzle for specific description.

Rucker’s sentimental groan, which once strained brusquely to keep up with the Vedders, now sounds downright understated by Nashville standards, as though he realizes the competition can’t be out-muscled. Compare Rucker’s performance here with Trace Adkins on “You’re Gonna Miss This,” also written by Gorley, and, as the title suggests, addressing the same subject with a similar conceit. Where Adkins issues weighty warnings about failing to live in the moment, Rucker humbly accepts the difficulty of doing so. As in the Hootie days, Rucker never really comes across as a world historical kind of guy. He just sounds like a decent, ordinary southern man, which, in country music no less than in rock, is achievement enough, regardless of race.

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