Josh Rouse, the Nebraska-born singer/songwriter is now a resident of Valencia, Spain. So continuing his recent penchant for commemorating his past, his 2005 album paid tribute to his erstwhile city of residence, Nashville. The album doesn't have a specifically Nashville-themed sound, but Rouse has taken a few of the musical ideas he experimented with on his last album 1972 and incorporated them into his traditional style to make an extremely strong statement of musical principles.
Rouse's lyrics do a fine job vividly depicting the generally unhappy souls populating his Nashville. There's the man who sleeps with the TV on to help keep the loneliness at bay in "My Love Has Gone," or the girl who yearns to leave her Tennessee home and live in California in a mansion by the sea, and who might just get her wish.
And the teen angst song "Middle School Frown" reads like a Cameron Crowe movie: "You were a new waver, it was 1983," Rouse sings. "I was new on the scene/I just wanted everyone to like me." The protagonist begins to pick on the aforementioned "new waver" to get in good with the other kids. But he is impressed with, and won over by, her poise despite two-faced friends and stuck-up classmates.
Rouse's musical approach delightfully retains some of the retro flavor of 1972. A song called "Sad Eyes" starts with Rouse and a solo piano singing about an unhappy, recently-divorced woman. Halfway through, it kicks into a full band with a string arrangement that lead one to imagine Rouse as a modern, midwestern-spawned Jackson Browne.
That image won't be dispelled with "Streetlights," one of the finest tracks on this album. Another quiet beginning which, when it hits the line, "you’re thinking that you’re strong enough/To make the jump up to the big big sky, " the melody soars into a wonderful string-drenched, pop climax.
Although perhaps not receiving the amount of attention it deserved, Nashville ranks among 2005's best albums.