Josh Rouse is dancing into middle age nicely with his tenth album The Happiness Waltz. Like some of his early to middle period albums, in particular 1972 (named after the year of his birth), this latest album is full of sunny melodies, country twangs, radio friendly hooks and some gorgeous singing.
There was a point around five years ago when it looked like Rouse was to settle into middle age in a less productive fashion. After a prolific run of five albums between 2002’s Under Cold Blue Stars and 2007’s Country Mouse City House he took a break from album releases for three years to release some of his earlier work under the Bedroom Classics name. El Turista in 2010 marked his album release return, followed by Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations the next year, but Happiness Waltz feels much more like a return to form than either of those.
His decision to go back to his most popular era of the early to mid 2000s in terms of production is a smart move and it is no surprise that he’s drafted in arguably his best producer for the task, Brad Jones, who was behind the desk on 1972 a well as 2005’s Nashville.
Recorded in Nebraska born Rouse’s home in Valencia, Spain, its mixing was completed in Nashville, which also helps give the album that mid 70s FM glow that made Rouse’s mid 2000s sound so popular and sonically pleasing.
Opener Julie (Come Out of the Rain) takes the listener straight back to the Rouse of old, with its infectious chorus and slide guitar, as does the simple guitar picking of Simple Pleasure. As the album progresses it is striking what a good writer of pop songs Rouse is, with the Carole King-esque City People City Things among the best examples.
By the time the album closes with the piano driven, Simon and Garfunkel-like title track I wonder why it is that Rouse hasn’t released a single since 2005. Perhaps as his audience grows older with him they are less inclined to go for one track and instead prefer to settle back in their garden and listen to the reassuringly familiarity of a consistently summery album from a dear friend, which is what Rouse seems like for those fans who’ve stuck with him all these years.
by Joe Lepper