After a bit of controversy, KNCI’s 14th annual Country in the Park can do what it does best: Let fans kick back to good music.
The sold-out festival will be staged Saturday for the first time at Cal Expo.
Headlining will be former Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker, who’s emerged onto the country music scene in the past five years. Also playing will be Craig Morgan, Craig Campbell, Jon Pardi and the Brodie Stewart Band, a local Sacramento act.
Rucker, touring in support of his newest album, “True Believers,” will make his first appearance at Country in the Park, though he has played in Sacramento several times with Hootie and the Blowfish and as a solo artist.
“I like fun and it’s always fun out there,” he said. “I’m sure there will be some people out there I wanna see.”
And a musician with Rucker’s experience knows, “The crowd is always there to have a good time.”
Rucker founded the rock band Hootie and the Blowfish in the mid-1980s. While insisting he wasn’t splitting from the group, he struck out on his own in a short R&B career and then found a fit in another genre. His first country album debuted in 2008, and a single from it topped the country charts, the first for a black musician since Charley Pride in 1983.
“The music is all the same notes and the same words and everybody has to put a label on something,” Rucker said. “I just love music.”
At Saturday’s concert, which was moved to Cal Expo from the Placer County Fairgrounds in Roseville, Rucker said he’ll be playing “the songs I think people want to hear.”
“We’ll play a lot of old stuff, a lot of new stuff, a lot of Hootie stuff, and it’ll be a party,” he said.
On the road, Rucker, a Charleston, S.C., native, has his three children with him to keep him entertained.
“I really love having my kids out on the road,” he said. “You never know what they’re going to say to make you laugh.
“I love it all and I love doing it all. It’s amazing to me and I plan to do this until I retire.”
The Grand Ole Opry artist said he has wanted to make a country album ever since he started listening to Randy Foster in the 1980s. Rucker’s third country album, “True Believers,” went No. 1 on Billboard’s country album chart. The album was released in May.
“It’s always great when you put a record out. You’re dying for it to get out for people to hear it,” Rucker said. This album included duets with other country artists such as Sheryl Crow and Mallary Hope, as well as songwriting collaborations.
“It’s always fun ’cause I’m always with dudes or ladies that I always enjoy being with,” Rucker said of the songwriting process. He said he wrote about 50 song for the 15-track “True Believers.”
“If you’re gonna put a song on the records, you’ve got to be willing to play it the rest of your life,” he said. The singer said he enjoys playing Hootie and the Blowfish songs (he’ll perform this month with the band) along with pieces from his newer albums.
But, for Rucker, it’s not the song, but the audience, that makes performing so fun.
“The audience is why I’m there. There’s no other reason to be there except for the people who paid the money to see you play,” he added.
That has to be music to the ears of KCNI’s Karen Filben, special events director.
“We look for artists that our listeners love,” she said.
Her station also made it a goal to keep ticket prices low, she said. Admission to this year’s sold-out festival is $25.
The event originally was to be held in Roseville but moved to Cal Expo to avoid a dispute between the fairgrounds and the city of Roseville, she said.
Call The Bee’s Brittany Torrez, (916) 321-1103.