Music

Josh Rouse: Nashville

Jill LaBrack

Josh Rouse cements his reputation as a superb artist in the vein of Aimee Mann or Jackson Browne, but with more musical variety.


Josh Rouse

Nashville

Label: Rykodisc
US Release Date: 1969-12-31
UK Release Date: 1969-12-31
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

It would be disingenuous to discuss Josh Rouse's new recording, Nashville, without talking about his 2003 release, 1972. Although 1972 was Rouse's fourth full-length, it had the fire and depth that somehow makes Nashville the equivalent of a sophomore release. 1972, while holding nothing new in its hands, is one of those tremendously good records. Publications running across the musical spectrum praised its worth. It brought together somewhat disparate people. From the alt-country obsessed economics professor to the tattooed punk rock guy to the shy/pretentious anti-folk young woman, I have rarely had so many people ask me if I had heard a particular record, and then insist on spending half an hour talking about it. At least not since Radiohead's Kid A, and those people were pretty much split between loving and hating it. 1972 is a loved record, and it put Josh Rouse on the map in a way that none of his other critically-acclaimed records ever did.

The good news is that Nashville is another solid record. Rouse and his backing band -- Marc Pisapia (drums, keyboards), James Haggerty (bass), Curt Perkins (keys), Daniel Tashian (guitar), Brad Jones (upright bass) -- have crafted a spellbindingly warm-sounding record. There's not a note that sounds off, out-of-place or like it is too much on this record. The musicians deserve a great deal of credit. They have done what is not necessarily easy to find on a lot of recordings: professionalism without sounding cold. They easily slip in and out of genres without sounding clichéd. There's still enough blue-eyed soul to keep 1972 fans happy, but there's also a return to country leanings, and a great, taunting New Orleans-ish number, "Why Won't You Tell Me What". Al Perkins provides pedal steel on several tracks to haunting effect. The most gorgeous instrumentation on Nashville, though, is the string arrangements by Chris Carmichael on "Streetlights" and "Sad Eyes". Preceding "Streetlights" is "Winter in the Hamptons", a song that speaks of boredom and killing time ("Friday night / We're so uptight / We get stoned / Sit in the Hamptons / It is too cold / We have stayed too long"). The song segues into opening strings on the hopeful "Streetlights" and it sounds like coming down from intoxication, when things start to look odd, yet beautiful, and it's really good to feel sober again. The strings continue through the song, culminating in a flying duet with Josh Rouse's voice at the three-minute mark. It's a moment to give one chills.

Elsewhere, "Middle School Frown" is one of the most sincerely affecting songs about an embarrassing time period that you are liable to ever hear. Lines such as "Yeah there goes that girl with the cheap guitar / She's a punk rock star / She's a dying art" are sung with a confident earnestness that can make even a nostalgia cynic wistful for days gone by. "Saturday" makes the idea of staying home seem like a rare prize. "My Love Has Gone" aches in the same vein as a young Jackson Browne covering middle-aged Bruce Springsteen. A couple of tracks falter, but only in a minor way. "Carolina" is a bit slight, despite the swelling pedal steel, and the closing track, "Life" suffers in the same way, but without the mournful instrument to give it heft.

"You play your stereo loud / You got your headphones on / I see you dancing around / To your favorite song". The opening lyrics of Nashville, from the song "It's the Nighttime" set the tone for the record. Chances are, you know what it sounds like already, simply based on those lines. Josh Rouse has long been a talented musician. With his latest, he cements a solid reputation. Joining the ranks of stellar singer-songwriters such as Aimee Mann and the aforementioned Jackson Browne, he now cuts records that will find you no matter what you listen to. Nashville may not have the immediate appeal of 1972, but it is just as strong and, with time, may even be remembered more.

8


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.