Take a quick peek at the cover of the new Josh Rouse album to see how he’s adjusted to middle age and family life.
Rouse is locked into a quiet stare as gray colors his temples. A few-days-old scruff frames his closed lips, and his blue eyes seem muted with a quiet resignation.
“Now that we’re getting older/and the sun hides the grey in our hair/we look for things to remember/that there is light out there,” Rouse sings over a swirl of flutes, saxophones, and background voices on “Our Love.”
With his 10th studio album, The Happiness Waltz, Rouse looks inward to reflect on the challenge of raising a family and maintaining a sense of home. He reunites with Brad Jones, who produced the stellar 1972 and Nashville, and that means a welcomed return to Rouse’s classic 1970s AM-radio sound. Rouse flaunts his penchant for writing pop hooks with a heavy heaping of mellotron strings, Hammond organs, horns and bass grooves.
On “A Lot Like Magic,” he sings, “It’s all in the air/it’s a lot like magic/we make due with the best that we have,” as the chorus is awash with saxophones and a sunny guitar riff. “Simple Pleasure” is one of the strongest examples of a classic Rouse single with its charming, effortless vocals peppered with a buoyant melody. With its Vince Guaraldi-like piano theme and a touch of harmonica, the title track sounds like a daydream beauty.
Location still serves as a trusted personal muse and influence for Rouse. He chronicled a crumbling marriage and bid adieu to Tennessee with Nashville. El Turista echoed daily life in his adopted country, Spain, and marked an expansion of his songwriting to include bossa nova and Latin pop.
The Happiness Waltz continues with this exploration of place, and in the case of “This Movie’s Way Too Long,” how to balance a career within a marriage. “I’m flying out to London baby/got a little number to do/come Monday I’ll be feeling alright/and we can start anew,” Rouse sings over a track powered by bouncy guitars and a rising chorus.
Married life and parenthood may be a challenge and growing older may not make you wiser, but Rouse is embracing change. And in the process, he has settled into his own middle-aged groove.
Josh Rouse – The Happiness Waltz tracklist:
- “Julie (Come Out of the Rain)”
- “Simple Pleasure”
- “It’s Good to Have You”
- “City People, City Things”
- “This Movie’s Way Too Long”
- “Our Love”
- “A Lot Like Magic”
- “Start Up a Family”
- “The Western Isles”
- “Purple and Beige”
- “The Ocean”
- “The Happiness Waltz”