Josh Rouse | 1972 (Rykodisc)

Josh Rouse: 1972 (Rykodisc)

Out September 8 is 1972, Josh Rouse’s fourth album and the follow-up to last year’s Under Cold Blue Stars. With 1972, Rouse set out to make a retro-sounding record, and in that sense, this can be thought of as somewhat of a period piece. As Rouse points out in his liner notes, 1972 is the year he was born and is the model year of his Fender Telecaster, on which he writes most of his songs. But primarily it is, musically, part of an era that remains a big inspiration for the singer/songwriter. Rouse could have easily played it safe with this release and mined his signature sound and songwriting style for another album (or ten). But thankfully, he’s not willing to rest on his laurels, and the risk he’s taken with 1972 pays off. Diehard Rouse fans will note the departure, but will also discover that all the things that drew them to his music in the past are still there.

Case in point: the bookends to the album. The opening title track is so good and so easy to get lost in that it’s hard to leave it long enough to listen to the rest of the album. I personally found myself repeatedly revisiting that track alone for the first ten days I had possession of my advance copy. Likewise, the album’s closer, “Rise,” finds Rouse in his uniquely top form and is a wonderful deterrent for pushing the eject button. “Love Vibration,” the first single off of 1972, is an infectious, feel-good track tailor-made for summer and complete with a talk-back chorus that sounds straight from the Welcome Back, Kotter theme. (And it actually works.)

Although musical influences of the early ’70s abound on this record, Rouse should be commended for not merely giving the songs the most obvious sonic nods of the period. The instrumentation of songs such as “James” has a definite soul/R&B vibe. But (whether intentionally or not) something about Rouse’s Midwest roots comes through in the vocals, adding a tinge of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “Jackie Blue” to what otherwise has a very Marvin Gaye feel. “Flight Attendant,” on the other hand, opens with a few notes of guitar before launching into a tango-esque piano. Those guitar notes are then reprised at the song’s tangential ending, which sounds like something from The Last Waltz.

1972 doesn’t exactly take you back in time, but it’s a great CD to have on the trip.

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