Josh Rouse - Nashville

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It's the type of album that'll sell millions because it's very well crafted, the guy's got a lovely voice and it's completely inoffensive.

 

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I've heard a lot about Josh Rouse, I've read a lot of the praise he's been given over the past few years and I knew that this new album was 'eagerly expected'. I'd just never actually listened to him before.

 

I was a bit worried in fact, when I first picked up this album, as the word Nashville seems to suggest steel guitar, cowboy boots and line dancing; which is an image I personally try to avoid. Thankfully, Rouse shows us a cooler, poppier and yet more folky side of Nashville that seems to suggest there's more than shit-kicking Marlboro men hanging around town crying into their whiskey bottles. There's still a fair amount of steel guitar hiding in this mix, but not enough to make you cringe.

 

Things get off to a bright start. In fact the first couple of tunes are bright, happy and cheerful enough to make you feel comfortable. Winter In The Hamptons even contains some handclaps, which always make me smile. The first thing that attracted me to this album, however, was Josh Rouse's voice. He's got a great voice. Calm, quiet and understated to the point that I wonder if his voice has ever broken? He's a handsome fella, but he sounds about fourteen. He whispers his delivery with a little drawl that seems singularly designed to chat up women. He's cute and he's got charm, I'll give him that. Smooth, that's what he is.

 

Unfortunately, his voice was also the first thing that turned me off and the thing that ruins the album for me, because he never changes mood. He always sounds like he's trying to seduce someone. Even when he's singing lyrics like, ´Where did you go?/I still curse you to this day´ he sounds like he's asking someone up for coffee and it's for this reason that the album ended up disappointing me.

 

Musically it's great. Highly polished and expertly crafted and layered. Everything sounds so clean and precise. There are some decent melodies here. Winter In The Hamptons is a Smiths song in anything but name, albeit The Smiths from a parallel dimension, where Morrissey was replaced by the foppish one from Gomez. Still, it's a great little tune. Streetlights is the type of happy little tune that Tom McRae would love to write and elsewhere everything is just nice and peaceful, which is another problem.

 

Lyrically, there's a lot of layers. There's some bite, some darker emotions, but everything's played and sang like a lullaby. It's the type of album that'll sell millions because it's very well crafted, the guys got a lovely voice and it's completely inoffensive. If you're invited over to the house of anybody that owns a Volvo, a V-neck jumper and a house in the suburbs, then expect this to be playing in the background whilst you eat your Fondu. It's just all so very, very pleasant. I mean, come on Josh, if you're going to sing an angry lyric like "Why won't you tell me what/What's going on/With you," then sing it with a bit of passion, a bit of fire. Don't sing it like you're asking someone upstairs for a night cap.

 

Nashville is an album that will seduce a thousand and one ladies, and a few of their husbands too. If you like Damien Rice and Tom McRae, then by all means check this out but just be aware that the darker, deeper emotions and feelings that those guys explore is missing here. There's absolutely nothing bad about it, in fact it's rather good; it's just the meaning often gets lost because the delivery is all wrong. Nashville is consistently good, without ever being great and that's a shame.

 

Words : Damian Leslie