Music Reviews
The Happiness Waltz

Josh Rouse The Happiness Waltz

(Yep Roc) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

Let others grumble over the economic meltdown; Josh Rouse won’t be fazed by anxiety mongers. No matter how dreary things become on his side of the world, there’s always music making, picturesque Valencia, and balmy days when love reigns.

The Happiness Waltz is Rouse’s tenth album. He’s a Nebraskan who lived a tumbleweed life before settling in Spain. The songs here reveal that marriage and fatherhood have been good to him. This renewal is addressed on the title track: “Spring, spring, the winter sting has gone/tomorrow I’ll be new”. This is sung with the peaceful voice of a man who’s finally found his place in the sun.

As such, Rouse revels in small moments of bliss. If you want to keep score, there’s even a song called Simple Pleasure. Brad Jones returns as producer, and the sounds here hark back to the mellow 70s grooves Rouse explored on albums such as 1972 and Nashville. What is missing is the spirit of adventure he displayed on El Turista. Those looking for South American rhythms will be disappointed this time. For the most part, the percussive playground is closed, showcased only on Start Up A Family.

The rhythms are mostly straight ahead and the guitars are in a slick Southern California mode, but Rouse keeps the laid back noodlings in check. Take for instance the album’s opener, Julie (Come Out Of The Rain), which starts with some somber chords before reaching an uplifting chorus. There are precise guitar and keyboard riffs threading through songs like City People, City Things and The Western Isles, where Rouse invokes his inner Paul Simon instead of going for California roll-your-own. Brad Jones’ production is crystal clear and keeps the musical clutter away.

The fast tracks keep and easygoing momentum, and there are some delicious melodies along the way. Our Love and A Lot Like Magic are mid-album winners that could have been hits back in the 70s. The last three songs are ballads that deal with weightier themes. Rouse’s vocalizing is at his best on The Ocean, a portrait of a desperate man drowned in troubles. Purple and Beige and the title song suggest that happiness takes some struggle and strife. Once you found it, you don’t want to look back.

The longer the album stays in my CD player, the more I’m convinced this is one of Rouse’s best efforts. What keeps it from the top is the lack of musical surprises. Still, these twelve songs will keep you warm as winter turns to spring.