Release Date: Mar 19, 2013
Record label: Yep Roc
Josh Rouse has always been comforting. Recently, he twitched toward bossa nova with 2010’s El Turista, a stylistic signifier to his current residence abroad. It didn’t quite inspire, but he returned to form with 2011’s Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations. The Happiness Waltz is a continuation: a graceful rotation of melodies and gentle reflection.
Domestic life, for all its blissful notions, can be destructive. It’s a force to be reconciled with; a horrible truth into which we all must settle or fight against. Literary giants like Richard Ford, Raymond Carver, and Alice Munro have plumbed its depths and found the truths to be painful and often difficult to confront. Filmmakers as diverse as Alexander Payne, Wong Kar-Wai, and Judd Apatow grapple with the subject in varying and middling ways—sometimes to great success (Payne’s Sideways) and sometimes to artistic detriment (Apatow’s This is 40).
Let others grumble over the economic meltdown; Josh Rouse won’t be fazed by anxiety mongers. No matter how dreary things become on his side of the world, there’s always music making, picturesque Valencia, and balmy days when love reigns. The Happiness Waltz is Rouse’s tenth album. He’s a Nebraskan who lived a tumbleweed life before settling in Spain.
Josh Rouse has been hovering on the peripheries of fame for a while now, never becoming a household name but providing fans of his gentle pop-rock with a steady string of consistent albums. Fittingly then, his 10th studio album is fan-funded, financed by the crowd-sourcing website Pledge Music, and it’s a fair bet that not many people who contributed money will be disappointed with the results. For Josh Rouse does soft, easy-listening pop very well indeed.
After a couple of albums that incorporated the influences of living in Spain (flamenco guitars, Spanish lyrics,) singer/songwriter Josh Rouse changes course on The Happiness Waltz to make an album that would have fit in well with those he was making in the early 2000s like 1972 and Nashville. Weaving together elements of country-rock, soft rock, Americana, and classic singer/songwriter sounds, Rouse and his longtime producer Brad Jones create a tightly arranged, beautifully constructed sound that matches Rouse's smoothly crooned vocals perfectly. Acoustic and electric guitars are nicely layered, keyboards and nice sonic touches (like horn sections) fill the edges of the songs in with color, and the occasional pedal steel sounds really nice -- the duo know how to make a fine-sounding record.
Josh RouseThe Happiness Waltz(Yep Roc)Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 Over the course of 15 years and ten albums, Josh Rouse has kept on a steady but ever-so-slightly shifting path of beautifully breezy folk-pop. It’s had its detours here and there, from his embrace of earth-tone, polyester AM pop on 1972, to the flamenco-influenced sounds of El Turista. Yet each of these albums is identifiably Rouse’s, warm and welcoming, and bearing the voice of a troubadour who has logged a lot of miles, but never loses his gentle charisma.
Josh Rouse has roamed as far musically as he has geographically, reflected through his 1998 debut, Dressed Up Like Nebraska, 2005's Nashville, and 2010's El Turista after settling in Spain. His 10th LP hearkens more to the robust Seventies soft rock that he explored with 1972, and likewise reunites him with producer Brad Jones. Rouse slips into such sounds with ease, light and exuberant in the keyboard and guitar interplay of "It's Good to Have You" and piano pop of "City People, City Things." The album tips overly saccharine at nearly every turn, but the arrangements are tight and polished, with swelling, lush choruses and grooving AM-radio bridges, as on "Simple Pleasures" and "Start Up a Family," all salved in Rouse's suave croon.