Josh Rouse

Nashville (Rykodisc)

With just a glance, it's clear that Josh Rouse, like other lesser lights in white-boy-roots songwriting, makes much ado about his hometown. But Rouse's literate, melodic writing bears a stronger resemblance to the work of '70s pop songwriters like Alex Chilton and Carole King than the well-trod tropes of the Nashville sound. And his latest isn't necessarily a portrait of the place for which it is named; many of the record's finest tunes -- infectious, upbeat ditties that clock in neatly around the three-minute mark -- are dispatches from well outside the city limits. The best of these, "Winter in the Hamptons," is all sunny harmonies, sweeping slide guitar and a chorus of fey "ba-ba-ba"s. Others aren't far behind, even though Rouse occasionally has his hand in the cookie jar of Replacements guitar parts. Nashville is a record that proves Rouse worthy of his reputation as one of that city's best-kept secrets. But with luck, that's a designation he'll soon outgrow.

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