Josh Rouse – El Turista

January 01, 1970

(Bedroom
Classics/Yep Roc)

 

www.yeproc.com

 

Josh
Rouse’s eighth full-length certainly succeeds in creating another cohesive
tableau for the songwriter to wander even further from his Nebraska roots. Working again with long-time
producer Brad Jones, Rouse turns here to the same instrumental palette he’s
worked with since he shed his alt-country cloak with 1972 — sunny keyboard textures; syncopated guitar rhythms; open
double-bass up front in the mix; warm vibraphone tones; jazzy horns and flutes;
romantic string sections – and even recorded in Nashville again.

 

But
the similarities end there, as Rouse reconstitutes these familiar entities here
into an ode to folk music from Cuba,
Brazil, Venezuela and his now-native Spain, where
Rouse moved five years ago, and now lives with his Spanish wife. He examined
some of these textures on 2006’s Subtitulo,
and clearly, the life and locale agrees with him, as the Mediterranean sun
imbues these new songs with balmy textures and unhurried tempos. That’s not
surprising on the sultry, Spanish-language hometown homage “Valencia,” the
breezy rumba “Los Voces,” or two covers of songs by Cuban Bola de Nieve. But
Rouse also infuses that sangria-and-siestas vibe into straight-ahead pop like
“Lemon Tree” and the Civil War-era traditional “Cotton Eye Joe,” and does so
without sacrificing his career-long chill-out aesthetic.

 

But
from the outset, when the gorgeous jazz-and-countrypolitan-strings instrumental
opener “Bienvenido” drifts into the equally enchanting cover of Bola De Nieve’s
“Duerme” (a rumba transposed to a Joao Gilberto 60s’ bossa nova), you know
immediately that Rouse has stepped up his game from 2007’s perfunctory Country Mouse/City House and made this new
tableau his own — even the dreamy, sweet soul-flavored disc-ender “Don’t Act
Tough,” which is free of any Spanish accents or Latin beats, fits texturally
with the rest of the record. Rouse’s voice has always been a bit slight (and
further lightened by his occasionally clichéd lyrics), but it suits these songs
that he sounds like the Boy from Ipanema and even lisps his Spanish in the
Castilian fashion.

 

Mostly,
though, El Turista pleases because it
doesn’t sound like the work of a visiting dilettante, and the Rouse we’ve known
over the years is present throughout. (The one exception, “I Will Live on
Islands,” hews so closely to Graceland it’s practically indistinguishable from Paul
Simon’s sound.) It’s premature to anoint this record a classic (the one-sheet
compares it to Graceland, Getz/Gilberto and Nilsson Schmilsson),
but it’s not too early to move it to the head of the class in Rouse’s
oeuvre. 

 

Standout Tracks: “Valencia,”
“Don’t Act Tough” “Lemon Tree” JOHN SCHACHT

 

 

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