Sunday, October 19, 2008

Josh Rouse - The Best of the Rykodisc Years - Album Review


The first of this double disc anthology features 19 favourites from Rouse's first five albums and two EPs. They run chronologically and the the track list is no surprise - it opens with "Late Night Conversation" and "Dressed Up like Nebraska", easily the best songs from his debut record before moving through Chester, the Josh Rouse and Lambchop frontman (Kurt Wagner) EP, and onto "Home". Home contains the song "Directions", which helped him reach new audiences when it was featured by Cameron Crowe in his wonderfully sound-tracked movie "Vanilla Sky".

While these songs are good, the golden years of Josh Rouse came on his final three records for the label - "Under Cold Blue Stars", "1972" and "Nashville". "Under Cold Blue Stars" was the album which brought him attention in UK, being heavily promoted by Q magazine, amongst others. The concept album about a travelling mid-western musician adds four great tracks to disc 1. "1972" with its change of direction into white-boy soul on "Come Back" and "Love Vibration" (it really works) provides another 4 tracks and the remaining 4 are pulled from Nashville, his final record with the stand out "My Love Has Gone" before leaving Rykodisc, getting divorced, moving to Spain and setting up his own label.

Josh Rouse has the rare gift of effortlessly producing strong melodies, that, together with his warm, approachable voice, provides a strand of continuity throughout the anthology, despite his constant attempts to vary his musical style. With the possible exception of a couple of the earlier tracks, disc 1 makes a gem of an album and an absolute must for anyone who hasn't checked out Rouse before.

Disc 2 features demos and b-sides and the near obligatory unreleased tracks. it also features the limited edition bedroom classics EP, to provide it to a wider audience. The second disc is interesting for fans, and "Sunshine" and "Suburban Sweetheart" are good songs but it is the first disc that will linger in your CD player. When Rouse began there weren't many people making alt-country pop and he may come to be regarded as a bit of a pioneer. It has been a real pleasure to re-discover Josh Rouse through this best of, and hopefully through this release many more people will make his acquaintance.

Rating: 4/5
Download: My Love Has Gone, Feeling No Pain, Love Vibration

Listen to Josh Rouse live at the Shepherd's Bush Empire and other concerts at or here

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