Fairweather Johnson

Hootie & The Blowfish

Atlantic Records, 1996


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review originally appearing in On The Town magazine on May 28, 1996]

I hate critics.

The psychological implications of that statement for me personally, I'll leave up to you to consider, dear reader; they do not alter the fact that I have come to believe that critics, as a species, live outside the boundaries of the reality the rest of us experience on a daily basis. Everything in their world is fresh and hip and bitchin', and everything out here where the rest of us live is pedestrian fluff. The capital-C Critic's primary measure of quality is whether the great unwashed masses enjoy something—for if they do, it MUST be trash. Only if it is neglected and unappreciated, can it be Great Art, something worthy of The Critic using his or her Magical Powers to rescue it from obscurity.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Well, screw that. Several decades ago some clever A & R guy coined the phrase "fifty million Elvis fans can't be wrong." They can be, of course, but my point is that there is absolutely nothing aesthetically deficient about granting them the benefit of the doubt.

Unfortunately for Hootie & the Blowfish, they do not play industrial or acid jazz or world-beat or write ranting haiku performance-art songs about the exotic flowers growing in their jewelry-making girlfriend's back yard. They play uncomplicated, bluesy, melodic pop music with unassuming lyrics, and golly gee if they aren't pretty darned good at it. If only they'd stop doing repulsively Common things like selling zillions of albums, maybe the critics might cut them half a second's worth of slack.

Incidentally, Fairweather Johnson is a worthy successor to Cracked Rear View, Hootie's multi-platinum debut. Lead singer Darius Rucker's voice is as resonant and pleasantly rough-edged as ever and the production has an endearingly imprecise live sound to it. Numbers like "Old Man & Me," "Honeyscrew" and "Silly Little Pop Song" recall the solid riffs and layered harmonies of previous Hootie hits "Hold My Hand," "Only Wanna be With You" and "Time." Further, the band shows growth in terms of textures and styles with the acoustic "Earth Stopped Cold at Dawn" and the somber, Beatlesque "Tootie."  

The bottom line is that while the fundamentally inoffensive and mostly predictable Fairweather Johnson is unlikely to change the course of Western civilization, if you liked Cracked Rear View, chances are good that you'll enjoy this album too. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that that smashing a jewel case over a Critic's pointy little head wouldn't solve.

Rating: B-

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