Rated | Alphabetical
| Highest Rated 2006
Music City Memoir
Josh Rouse: Nashville
Josh Rouse's fifth release, Nashville, is so effortlessly
accomplished that it's easy to overlook the smartness of the songcraft and
the crisp pop arrangements subdivided between an upbeat "A" side and more
introspective "B" side. Indeed, on the surface, deceptively simple lyrics
like "Life is good / Sometimes it's bad / It has its ups / It has its downs"
(from the closing "Life") and invitingly warm production (courtesy of
co-producer Brad Jones) create a classic '70s singer-songwriter feel. (From
a purely superficial standpoint, fans of Bread, Boz Scaggs and Harvest
Moon-period Neil Young will warm to the openhearted, professionally crafted
tones of Nashville.) Even more than Rouse's gratuitously retro
captures a mood and a melancholy at once as guileless as it is polished to a
blinding, artful sheen.
Getting past the easy flow and ace musicianship, Nashville reveals
itself to be Rouse's deepest record to date. From a biographical standpoint,
it encapsulates the songwriter’s feelings on a city he called home for ten
years before picking up and relocating to Spain. From the breakup of his
marriage to the rapidly increasing proficiency of his singer-songwriter
skills, Rouse articulates what living in Music City meant to his life. It's
not so much a detached, rearview perspective as it is an up-close assessment
of the influences and relationships, culture and geography that shaped his
artistic and personal worldview over the past decade.
The urgent longing on "It's the Nighttime," conveyed by a simple acoustic
strum before a fuller sound, including some aching pedal steel, kicks in,
meshes flawlessly with Rouse's tale of budding romance between an uptown
girl and a "downtown fool." "Winter in The Hamptons" unfurls at a faster
clip, the tempo nicely complementing the fevered restlessness of Rouse's
lyrics ("We have stayed too long"). “Streetlights” conveys the
less-than-convincing self-help mantra "You will start today," buoyed by
evocatively wistful string arrangements and a plaintively effective rhythm
section. The album’s first half concludes on a high note with "Middle School
Frown," a reflection on the vicious social games played by hormonally
charged teenagers and one student who rises above it ("You held your head
The downside of Nashville, unsurprisingly, tracks the emotional
tailspin felt by a heartbroken lover ("My Love Has Gone"), offering
bourbon-smooth melancholia ("Saturday") and delicate piano tearjerkers ("Sad
Eyes") with graceful aplomb. And then there's the swinging "Why Won't You
Tell Me What," which sounds out of place on the backside of the album until
you realize it's about a severe communication breakdown between two lovers.
If the first half of Nashville can be loosely correlated with
courtship and the excitement of life in a new city, the second half
emphasizes dissolution and, finally, disillusionment as things fall apart.
Nashville validates the promise Rouse has exhibited since Dressed
Up Like Nebraska, encompassing a gift for emotional detail and a
fondness for simple, unadorned lyrics. It's an understated, impeccably
played collection of heartfelt tunes about a time and place that can never
be returned to. Leaving has rarely sounded so sweet.
design copyright © 2001-2011 Shaking Through.net. All original artwork,
photography and text used on this site is the sole copyright of the respective creator(s)/author(s). Reprinting, reposting, or citing any of the original
content appearing on this site without the written consent of Shaking
Through.net is strictly forbidden.