Following up a debut as successful as Cracked Rear View would be intimidating for most groups, but it had to be especially daunting for such a direct, straightforward combo as Hootie & the Blowfish. What made Cracked Rear View such a success was its very unpretentiousness; how each song sounded like it was the crowd-pleaser from the local bar band. Hootie & the Blowfish haven't lost that universal appeal on their second album, Fairweather Johnson, but they have been able to add more weight to their music. While the essential formula of Hootie's music hasn't changed -- Darius Rucker still belts out anthemic choruses over interweaving acoustic guitars -- the band is stronger and more muscular, giving their simple, direct melodies powerful support. They also have learned how to shade their music with varying dynamics and subtle arrangements, which also adds depth to the band. And behind the bright, singalong melodies, Rucker has hidden some surprisingly introspective and searching lyrics, tackling everything from racism to heartbreak. Hootie & the Blowfish still have a bit of trouble coming up with a set of consistently engaging songs, but the weakest moments on Fairweather Johnson resonate more than those on Cracked Rear View, while the best moments eclipse those on the debut. It's a surprisingly assured and effective second album.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine