Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Hootie and the Blowfish: Cracked Rear View [Atlantic, 1994]
Even when they split the difference between jangle and boogie, bands given to blunt popcraft and elementary guitars generally favor singers up toward the whiny end of the dramatic spectrum. So Darius Rucker's gruff grit adds an extra layer of substance to a music already deeply comforting in its formal certainties. As a black man who takes his vocal cues from what Gregg Allman made of blues and soul, not to mention a black man embraced as eagerly as Carl McCall by white people loath to think of themselves as "prejudiced," he's significant, with "Drowning" one more hit about racism than Tupac or Dr. Dre has bothered with. But since both patterns can be traced to late minstrelsy--by which I mean not the whiteskin brainwash of perfervid radical rhetoric, merely the twisted roots of American pop--he's hardly unprecedented. And whatever his significance, a cornball is a cornball is a cornball. B