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Darius Rucker brings his smooth country sound to Columbus show

Two words discredit the belief that country music’s future belongs to blonde 20-somethings in cowboy boots: Darius Rucker.

When Rucker prepared to enter the mainstream country scene last year, he appeared the unlikeliest suspect.

The odds didn’t favor an African-American who had long fronted a rock act, Hootie & The Blowfish.

Then, success hit.

His 2008 country debut disc, “Learn to Live,” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart, and spawned three consecutive No. 1 singles. The radio world, too, seemed to quickly embrace the artist.

Outsiders might call it a country music cakewalk, but Rucker won’t go that far.

“I wouldn’t say it was easy,” Rucker said in a recent phone interview.

But “the transition was smoother than it could have been,” he added.

Rucker performs at the Columbus Civic Center Sunday. He’s joined by opening act Jypsi.

“It’s going to be a party,” Rucker said. “You won’t be disappointed.”

Fans will hear his country tunes — songs like “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” “It Won’t Be Like This for Long” and “Alright.” He’ll also throw some covers into the show.

And, of course, Rucker will perform some of the chart-topping singles that helped Hootie & The Blowfish rise to prominence in the ’90s.

“You have to. Those are classics,” he said.

Even though Rucker initially gained a following as rocker, his South Carolina upbringing made him a longtime fan of country music.

As his interest in singing and songwriting grew, he admired entertainers like Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam and Radney Foster.

In fact, Rucker says the musicians in Hootie & The Blowfish discussed becoming a country band — but Rucker was outvoted.

Still, it’s not hard to see slight traces of country and bluegrass in Rucker’s Hootie song catalog. That’s why the country music world wasn’t a completely foreign universe for the artist.

He entered the scene at a time when the genre had expanded to include reality TV stars, pop crossover acts, even Bon Jovi.

Rucker said the genre’s diversity is one of its greatest assets.

“That’s what I love about country radio,” Rucker said.

He’s quick to note that the Hootie era is far from over.

Should the band’s fans hold out hope for new material? Yes.

Rucker maintains it’ll happen — “I’m sure, in the future,” he said. For now, however, his sights are set on the world of twang.

“Country music is my day job,” he said.

Contact Sonya Sorich at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516.

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