Scattered, Smothered and Covered

Hootie & the Blowfish

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Scattered, Smothered and Covered Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

It's easy to make fun of Hootie & the Blowfish because they are what everyone says they are -- a bar band made good. Since they were a bar band from the early '90s, it shouldn't come as a surprise that they knocked out Smiths and R.E.M. covers along with songs from the Led Zeppelin and Bill Withers songbooks -- this was the music of the time, and they were a band of their time. All of this surfaces on their B-sides and rarities collection, Scattered, Smothered and Covered. As these 15 covers songs sound slightly less memorable than their big hits, it occurs to you that this must be how Hootie & the Blowfish sounded in Southern college bars before they recorded Cracked Rear View -- they're amiable, good-humored, earnest, and likable. Since the big hits are missing, the group sounds a bit like a local act, too -- the kind of group that wrote sturdy songs but never found a transcendent hook -- but that's not a bad thing, since that's always been part of their charm. And, the fact is, this band has real affection for jangle-pop-derived rock. They knew enough to dig out "I Go Blind," a good old 54-40 song, and place it on the Friends soundtrack at the height of the show's popularity, so they could make the guys some money. It's hard to hate a band that does that, and that lends a certain charm even to an album like Scattered, Smothered and Covered, which is as uneven as any rarities collection (and, of course, only necessary for the hardcore), but blessed with an unexpected charm, since it proves in the best possible way that Hootie & the Blowfish really were America's bar band of the '90s.

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