\ Hip Displeasure: Josh Rouse - <i>Nashville</i>

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Josh Rouse - Nashville


Between my childhood fascination with Hee-Haw and my numerous trips as an adult to my brother-in-law's place in southern Davidson County, the city of Nashville holds a special place in my gravy-filled heart. For years, "Music City" has been known solely as the epicenter of country music, but it has become an increasingly important indie hub in recent years, thanks to the emergence of such artists as Lambchop, The Shazam, and superb singer-songwriter Josh Rouse. After a handful of largely overlooked gems, most notably the playfully nostalgic pop found on his 2003 release, 1972, Nashville-based Rouse reaches new heights with an album named in honor of his adopted hometown.

On Nashville, Rouse showcases his versatility by weaving together the many elements and styles in which he has dabbled during his stellar career. While Nashville is by no means a country (or even alt-country) album, it does incorporate many of the components for which the music of this city is known, including pedal steel and upright bass. Each song is an intricately told story, many of which contain autobiographical overtones. The cream of the crop is "Middle School Frown," a poignant recounting of the new kid in town shunning his first real friend upon discovering said friend's unpopularity, punctuated by the shame-laced admission of respect resulting from adult retrospection ("You held your head high / When you walked down my street"). In another standout track, "CaroliƱa," Rouse sings, "in the Nashville sky shines a diamond bright," though none shines brighter right now than Rouse himself.


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