First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2005, Volume 12, #4
Written by John Metzger
Itís a telling sign when an album by a singer/songwriter doesnít feature a transcript of his lyrics, and indeed, a close examination of the ruminations by Josh Rouse on his latest outing Nashville reveals more than a few awkward moments. That said, Rouse definitely has all the makings of an extraordinary artist. Both his sense of melody as well as the atmospheres that he evokes are positively sublime, and he certainly has a knack for threading his songs together into a cohesive collection, while allowing the overarching theme to serve as its title. Therefore, in the grand scheme of things, a few faulty turns-of-phrase arenít going to be enough to sink one of his efforts, and in the end, much like its predecessors, Nashville prevails.
Throughout his career, which now spans five full-length studio outings, Rouse has matured in gradual increments, slowly moving forward in his quest for perfection. With the release of Nashville, one gets the sense that he, just now, is beginning to hit his stride. In essence, the collection is both a refinement and a summation of his lifeís work, and it highlights just how far he has come since he recorded his lo-fi debut. It also serves as a final farewell to the city in which he has resided for the past 10 years, while the reason for his departure ó a marriage that came apart at the seams ó provides a darker, more personal undercurrent to the material.
Still, itís the music that is most irresistible about Nashville, and Rouse once again enlisted producer Brad Jones to assist him in building upon the lush sonic terrain that the duo explored so fully on 1972. In short, their arrangements are designed to capture specific moods and feelings thereby allowing Rouse to further elaborate with unspoken eloquence upon the story that he is trying to tell. Cleverly, Nashville is divided into two sides ó a concept that harkens back to the days of vinyl, but seemingly has been lost in the digital age ó and each has its own distinct flavor. The first ó which features the soaring strains of Itís the Nighttime, the shimmering Stone Roses-meets-The Smiths groove of Winter in the Hamptons, and the strangely delicious fusion of the Velvet Underground with Sonny & Cher on Middle School Frown ó is bubbling with optimism and hope. The second ó which contains the piano-heavy sentimentality of Sad Eyes as well as the bittersweet soul of Saturday ó is bruised, battered, and brooding. The dichotomy undoubtedly is meant to convey the emotional course of his romantic pursuits, though on Life, the collectionís final track, Rouse embraces it all with the sort of easy-going acceptance that comes from a guy who decided to pack scant few of his belongings into a suitcase and move to Spain.
Nashville 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 © 2005 The Music Box