Josh RouseYard Dog, Thursday 14 One thing about the Yard Dog is that simply from its configuration -- basically a shoebox with the top and back side missing -- everybody except the 20 or so folks directly in front of the stage are going to find out what kind of low end sound you have. The irony is that most of the bands playing there are of the Americana type, where bass isn't a priority. Yet, simply by standing in the alley during Josh Rouse's short set, it became clear that for a Midwesterner, damn, he's got some cool basslines going on. More impressive is that they're married to what's essentially soft rock. Forget your parents; your grandparents would probably find Rouse's subtle pop amiable enough. That's the charm and near brilliance of Rouse; he manages to take what could be, on cursory listen, pure cheese and endow it with a soft spoken and understated cool. Rouse opened with a trio of songs from his latest Ryko release, Under Cold Blue Stars, a concept album about a farm couple in the south that reaffirmed his deftness with straddling the line between credibility and middle American sentimentality. On his third album, Rouse has gained a quiet confidence that helps sell the story. And his closer, "Suburban Sweetheart," showed he hasn't grown too far beyond the accidental naivete that made him so endearing from the get go. Nothing fantastic, but really, really nice.
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