Hootie and the Blowfish Return

Radio-friendly rockers to release first album in five years

Hootie and the Blowfish will release a self-titled album, their first new set in nearly five years, March 4th on Atlantic Records. The album is also the band's first without longtime producer Don Gehman; Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan) took his place at the boards.

"We tried to name it, and it just didn't happen," says singer Darius Rucker. "You write songs and you put a record out, and, after four years, we didn't need to try to figure out who we are. We just really wanted to try and be the rock & roll band we'd like to be."

Besides eleven originals that tap the band's trademark all-American sound, Hootie and the Blowfish includes a version of the Continental Drifters' "The Rain Song" that features Vicki Peterson and Susan Cowsill of the Drifters singing backup.

"Innocence," the first single from the new album goes to radio next month, which of course is where Hootie broke through during height of grunge with the feel-good "Hold My Hand," from 1994's Cracked Rear View. "It was the right song at the right time," Rucker remembers. "It was different and uplifting."

The band's subsequent albums -- 1996's Fairweather Johnson and 1998's Musical Chairs -- did not approach the same sales figures, and Hootie finally put a cap on that era with the recycled rarities collection Scattered, Smothered and Covered.

During their recent hiatus, Rucker and guitarist Mark Bryan each released solo sets, and all four members became fathers. "I think [family] makes the band focus more," Rucker says. He remembers his seven-year-old daughter Cary's reaction to one show in particular: "We played this show and she was a little tired, but she was so happy to be there. She walked into the back and said, 'Daddy! That was better than 'N Sync!' And that was about the best thing she could've said."