The Music Box's #14 album of 2006
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2006, Volume 13, #8
Written by John Metzger
On his previous outing Nashville, Josh Rouse bid farewell to the city in which he had lived for a decade, and judging from the relaxed grooves and sunny disposition of his sixth, full-length studio effort Subtítulo, it appears as if his defection to the Spanish town of Puerto de Santa Maria has suited him well. He still hasn’t found whatever it is that he is seeking, and throughout the affair, he alternates between severing his ties to the past and stumbling his way into the future. Not surprisingly, distant echoes of Nashville (both the city and the album) continue to drift through his work, and based upon the bitter lyrical barbs embedded in the alcohol-soaked Givin’ It Up, Rouse remains resentful about his divorce. Nevertheless, there also is an air of hopefulness to Subtítulo as he finds new romantic entanglements to lift him out of his homesickness and self-pity.
Marrying bossa nova, ’70s soul, and singer-songwriter-oriented folk, Rouse, once again, makes no bones about borrowing whatever he needs from other artists, though his most obvious appropriations smartly enhance the portraits that he paints. In tucking a bit of Harry Nilsson into Quiet Town, for example, he conjures a sense of movement that perfectly scores his life as a drifter who is settling with optimistic contentment into a new home. Guided by its piano accompaniment, the playfully seductive, Donovan-esque flair of His Majesty Rides also hints at Blues Image’s Ride Captain Ride, and the effect suitably magnifies his message to embrace the beauty of the present rather than to dwell upon the sorrows of the past. Likewise, by introducing The Man Who with a bass riff that hints, however briefly, at Steely Dan’s Rikki Don’t Lose that Number, it’s immediately apparent that he wants to cling to his newfound love. Although the arrangements are highly polished, all of the textures serve primarily to frame Rouse’s vocal and acoustic guitar work, which subsequently lends real substance and palpable intimacy to his material. In the end, Subtítulo is a quietly reflective outing on which Rouse takes another step towards reaching a wider audience without making commercial concessions to his art.
Of Further Interest...
Subtítulo is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box