Josh Rouse: The Best Of The Rykodisc Years

Josh Rouse

Rhino, 2008

http://www.joshrouse.com

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/19/2008

I can only think of one other person I know who is familiar -- and in love with -- the music of Josh Rouse.

Perfect then that the singer/songwriter is from a place as unfamiliar as Nebraska. That’s not where he hangs his hat though; these days he’s settled down in Tennessee. It’s too bad really that Rouse hasn’t experienced greater success. Drawing from indie, folk, country, pop, and soul, Josh Rouse’s music has a little something to offer everyone. He’s a fantastic writer with a keen pop sensibility and his smooth, soft-spoken vocals tie his varied work together quite nicely. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It may seem odd that an artist as obscure and, relatively speaking, new as Rouse would be given a two-disc treatment for his first compilation. But it only takes a few tracks to realize how much his body of work deserved a treatment as comprehensive as Josh Rouse: The Best Of The Rykodisc Years. Released via Rhino Records, disc one covers the Rouse studio records Dressed Up Like Nebraska (1998), Home (2000), Under Cold Blue Stars (2002), 1972 (2003), and Nashville (2005). Disc two includes material from the EPs Chester (1999) and Bedroom Classics Vol. I (2001) along with some B-sides and demos from Rarities (a bonus disc available with the 2004 DVD The Smooth Sounds Of Josh Rouse).

This may seem like a lot to sift through. But you’d have to spend some serious coin to cover all of the albums Rouse has released up to now, and this collection serves as an excellent starting point for anyone interested in diving into Rouse’s down to earth, emotive, and polished songwriting. We’ve got plenty of the sensitive singer/songwriter types; I suppose we always will. But when listening to this two-disc set -- or any other of Rouse’s records -- you can definitely tell that this guy is in the upper echelon of an over-saturated genre. This has mostly to do with how natural the music sounds and feels; there’s very little mimicry or revivalism going on in Rouse’s music. It’s just good old-fashioned songwriting.

I sincerely doubt a double-disc Josh Rouse compilation is going to make much money for either the label or the artist. Obviously there’s some money to be made, but Rhino Records has a thing for pouring money and marketing into pretty obscure classics.  Not that this collection in particular is a “classic,” but it certainly has the potential to be. Perhaps Josh Rouse is better served as one of American music’s best kept secrets, and in that despicable music-snob sorta way, I kind of like the feeling that I’m the only whose been told.

Rating: B+

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© 2008 Kenny S. McGuane and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rhino, and is used for informational purposes only.