Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review - Josh Rouse - El Turista

Josh Rouse – El Turista
(Bedroom Classics) 22 February 2010

Five years ago Josh Rouse moved to Valencia, Spain with his new (Spanish) wife, Paz Suay. In 2005 he had just come off the back of the highlight of his musical career, a trilogy beginning with Under Cold Blue Stars, followed by '1972' (2003) and finally Nashville (2005). He met his new wife, left his longstanding relationship with Rykodisc and relocated to Spain, to release new recordings under his own label, Bedroom Classics.

The albums which have followed – Subtitulo (2007), Country House City Mouse, and She's Spanish I'm American EP (2008) are in truth, inferior to his previous output. While they are undoubtedly infused with Spanish sun and mediterranean rhythm, the melodies and hooks just aren't as good.

So by 2010 and the release of “El Turista” Josh has taken a different route. This time he is deliberately trying to be different. El Turista is a midwestern guy doing Brazilian songs in Spanish. Does it work? Well, a little.

El Turista is not going to please masses and gain five star reviews the way 1972 and Nashville did. It feels rather like an indulgence. We shouldn't expect an artist to stay still, especially not when they are surrounded by a new set of influences but nor should an artist expect to succeed at every style he turns his hand to. Josh showed that he can write a concept album (Under Cold Blue Stars), recreate the 70's (1972) and turn his hand to a great varieties of styles on Nashville so it is only natural to expect him to continue.

Taking a leaf from Paul Simon on Graceland he opens with the instrumental “Bienvenido”, before moving onto “Lemon Tree” and “I Will Live On Islands” with percolating Afro-Cuban grooves. The songs alternate between english and spanish.

The stand out track is probably “Sweet Elaine”, rather like an outtake from Nashville (think My Love Has Gone but with a double-time Latin beat and billowing strings. The record was inspired by a Bola de Nieve record which features Cubans signing in Spanish. If Cubans can do it, why not a Nebraskan?

Josh says “I've made records in the past and thought 'A lot of people might like this' but that never really happened during this record. I mean I want people to hear it but I really made it for myself'.

It sounds that way, fun, and I'm sure an artistic challenge, but I don't think a lot of people will really like this.

Rating: 3/5

Listen to Josh Rouse on Spotify

Monday, February 15, 2010

Elliot Smith

Ever since Elliot Smith tragically died on 21 October 2003 I have had this fear that people will forget about him. I'm currently listening to, rediscovering and enjoying his last proper studio album: Figure 8.

Check out this for a great Elliott Smith song

My friend Matt gave me a copy Figure 8 in the summer of 2000 when I was recording an album. He waxed lyrical as a producer does about how the vocals are double tracked and panned left/right. and how he put delay on a whole drum kit on "Everything Means Nothing To Me".

Not only did he play all the instruments but he constantly innovated with alternate tunings and effects to create multi-layerd sonic textures while always leaving a strong melody in place.

My iTunes classifies him as lo-fi alt. singer-songwriter but he turned to many styles throughout his brief career. To anyone out there who has missed Smith, do yourself a favour, give it a listen.

Essential Elliott Smith

Friday, February 12, 2010

Jamie Cullum - Valentines Day Ep titled Love Ain't Gonna Let You Down


Celebrate Valentine's Day with Jamie Cullum's Love Ain't Gonna Let You Down EP (Verve/UMe) released exclusively through iTunes on February 2, 2010. Featuring three songs of love from his upcoming album The Pursuit, out March 2, 2010, the EP highlights two Cullum originals "Love Ain't Gonna Let You Down" & "I Think, I Love," and his heartfelt take on the Stephen Sondheim standard "Not While I'm Around" from "Sweeney Todd."

U.S. tour with Verve labelmate Imelda May on March 4th in New York.

Tour Dates:
Mar 4 2010 The Town Hall, New York, NY
Mar 5 2010 The Keswick Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
Mar 6 2010 House Of Blues, Boston, MA
Mar 7 2010 9:30 Club, Washington. D.C.
Mar 9 2010 Massey Hall, Toronto, CANADA
Mar 12 2010 Cobb Energy Center, Atlanta, GA
Mar 13 2010 James K. Polk Theater, Nashville, TN
Mar 14 2010 Roberts Orpheum Theater, St. Louis, MO
Mar 16 2010 Park West, Chicago, IL
Mar 20 2010 Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, CANADA
Mar 21 2010 The Moore Theatre, Seattle, CA
Mar 22 2010 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR
Mar 23 2010 The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
Mar 25 2010 Avalon, Los Angeles, CA

I know that feeling.. what's her name?