There are no fewer than three songs on Darius Rucker's When Was the Last Time album that celebrate a carpe diem lifestyle. The singer says that's where his life is right now.

"For the First Time," "Life's Too Short" and "Twenty Something" encourage anyone listening to make the most of the minute, albeit in three very different ways. It's Rucker's most countrified solo album to date, and it feels more in the moment — at times it's as if he captured something from a live show (he didn't).

The 51-year-old tells Taste of Country he recently made a musical bucket list of concerts and experiences. When asked "When was the last time you did something for the first time?" a la his current single, he lit up to talk about a recent Paul McCartney concert.

"I’m getting at that age now where I’m starting to think ‘What haven’t I done that I wanna do?'" he shares. "It’s been a fun time being in your routine and your rut and doing what you do, but I think just my mentality — where I am. It’s time for me to start thinking about all those things that I wanna do."

He'll use the word "rut" several times during a conversation about his direction for this album, but at no point does Rucker come across as a man who feels he has wasted time. A "rut" is necessary as a parent (a 12-year-old and 16-year-old still live at home) and professional who's driving for new levels of success. Some call it a "groove" instead, but Rucker's path is just a routine that helps create consistent expectations and a consistent product. Moving forward, he wants to surprise you. He hopes to surprise himself.

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When Was the Last Time (Oct. 20) does that. "Count the Beers" is a country rebound song that feels off-brand until you're reminded that Rucker lived an autobiography worth of experiences prior to coming to country music. He's a stable husband and father now, but his 30s were a nonstop party.

"Straight to Hell" is the obvious centerpiece of the album, as it features Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Charles Kelley as accompaniment. The Lady Antebellum singer suggested Rucker cut this old Drivin' N' Cryin' song, which seemed like a sign from God, because Rucker had been promising to do just since he first heard it nearly 30 years ago. Before Hootie and the Blowfish were a big deal he'd close bar shows with the wild, rockabilly track. Now that it's finally on an album (and hopefully, he says, a future radio single) he can cross it off his bucket list. Seize the day!

"Another Night With You" may be the most important song on the album, however. The delicate, jazzy ballad adds texture to a project that fluctuates between fairly mainstream pop-country, rootsy rock-country and powerful vocal showcases he's known for ("Don't" is an example).

"It’s so country, and it’s so different," Rucker says, referring to the disregard of the typical Nashville song structure. "When we finished writing it I kept going, ‘Man, that’s it.’ That’s just so country and then when Ross (producer Ross Copperman) got it, and put those strings to it, it really got that old-timey feel to it. I just love that song."

His vocals were inspired by Patsy Cline, but the sound is Texas swing-meets-nightclub jazz. It's not a baby-maker so much as it is a wedding-inspirer.

"That really slow, '50s country kind of groove with the big strings and everything," Rucker says. "I thought that was awesome and new and really cool."

This approach to life and music has its limits, however. As a parent, Rucker concedes that he needs to be the brakeman. It's a "do as I say, not as I do" situation. "You talk about having fun but also talk about enjoying where you are right now and don't worry about getting to that next place so fast."

Hold on, Darius! We've Got One Last Question!

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