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HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH
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(ATLANTIC)

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" I want to feel like I did, " Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker sings on " Innocence, " a cut from his bandís first disc since 1998ís Musical Chairs. " And I want to feel innocence. " Hardly seems possible, does it? After all, Ruckerís the guy who sowed the seeds for countless mid-í90s MOR-rock hacks. The mushy acoustic guitars and oatmeal melodies of Cracked Rear View, the Hootiesí zillion-selling debut, are what convinced Train and Matchbox Twenty they could fly, so itís only fair that he continue to squirm for his misdeeds.

Yet whatís abundantly clear across these 12 new songs is how good the Blowfish still are at creating musical comfort food, a commodity more valuable now than it was during the bandís salad days. Almost every tune features something worth hearing: the lilting chorus on the opening " Deeper Side, " producer Don Wasís horn parts on " Show Me Your Heart, " the ersatz New Orleans bounce of " Little Brother, " Indigo Girl Emily Saliersís harmony vocals on " When Sheís Gone. " Although the bandís moment has passed and nothing here will make the waves that Rear Viewís hits did, this is a not unwelcome return.

BY MIKAEL WOOD

Issue Date: April 17 - 24, 2003
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