Josh Rouse

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ACL Fest Reviews

Josh Rouse

The Smooth Sounds of Josh Rouse (Rykodisc) At the beginning of the prerequisite tour documentary on The Smooth Sounds of Josh Rouse, the Nashville-based pop porcupine is readying an in-studio live set. "Is there something you feel would best be represented by playing it from the CD rather than doing it live?" asks the host, holding up Rouse's AM radio prize 1972. "All of it!" shoots back the artist. "Are you kidding me?" Don't be drinking milk when babystraightface says it, either. 2003 closed out Rouse's creative and (one presumes) commercial peak on New Year's at Nashville's the Exit/In, and though 1972 dominates the set list, radio remains better heard than seen. Face it, there's no tarting up singer-songwriters, even one as blue-eyed soul slurring as Rouse. The band is worthy of its hometown, the video shoot lively in its staging and use of B&W, and the marquee name himself performs his melodically rich, 60-minute set earnestly. Even with all that running smoothly, these pet Sounds somehow function better as audio document, '72 chart wannabes like its candlelit title track, infectious hand-clapper "Slaveship," and plaintive, Dallas-ite heckled strummer "Feeling No Pain" from 2002's Under Cold Blue Stars needing no visuals to hit their target. Seductive encore "Flight Attendant" ends up the evening's best match of composition and delivery. What Rouse and company lose in studio crispness they make up for in live homogenization, try as they might. The "Rarities" disc makes a case for Smooth Sounds being better served as a CD with a bonus DVD, the unconscionable exclusion of liner notes aside. Titles "Michigan," "Kentucky Flood," "Pittsburgh," and "Scenes From a Bar in Toronto," not to mention "Knights of Loneliness," make the case for these being tour souvenirs, and valued ones at that. Josh Rouse is on a roll. (Saturday, 2pm, Bank of America stage)

**.5

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