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

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image