Where did you come from, Cotton Eye Joe?

Monday, March 15, 2010

I've been a very bad blogger. Unfortunately work has been eating up most of my time, and I'm finding that the last thing I want to do when I get home is think about clothes (hence the large amount of back-to-back music posts). So, here's what's on my radar at the moment.

Josh Rouse, one of my favorite musicians of all time, has just released "El Turista", his eighth full-length album and one of the prettiest to date. There aren't many artists' careers that I feel thoroughly schooled in, but since his is one of them, I can get a good view of "El Turista" in relation to his earlier efforts. The gritty folk rock of "Dressed Up Like Nebraska" is long gone, my friends. Ordinarily, this would be tragic because "Dressed Up Like Nebraska" is such a wonderful album, but Josh has an ability to trump all his previous work with grace and ease. I can't think of many people that have had musical lifespans as varied and thoughtful as his.

"El Turista" sounds like the logical result of Josh's travelin'-man lifestyle (he has lived in places including Nebraska, Nashville, Brooklyn, and now Valencia). There are elements of every place he's lived in this album, in addition to Cuban and African notes. Midwestern Boy Goes Backpacking. It's unlike anything he's done before, and is still distinctly his. I don't know how he manages to do this with every. single. album he puts out. It is mind boggling. Gripe about his imperfect accent or the fact that this album was recorded primarily in Nashville if you must, but it's beautiful. He admits he's a damn tourist in the album title, cut him a break.

As for favorite tracks, I'm partial to the pretty violins in the opener "Bienvenido". "Valencia" makes me feel like I'm on a beach somewhere making animals out of clouds that pass by while drinking an extremely bubbly beer. The cover of "Lemon Tree" that big fans will recognize from the third Bedroom Classics EP is lovely and breezy. "Las Voces" will make you sway, and probably "aaaaaah" along with the background voices. "Cotton Eye Joe" is something of a dreamy sigh, and in my humble opinion it captures the spirit of the whole album.

A sidenote: A lot of Josh Rouse fans and critics are constantly complaining that he's moved too far from his original work - believe me, I've been there too - but I really firmly believe that if he made another "Nashville" (05) or "1972" (03) we would slowly lose interest. He can't just imitate himself - all authenticity would disappear, and that's the thing we love about him, right? Those albums are incredible, perfect things, let's leave it at that. I say we let him try to make a new incredible, perfect thing.

You can stream the entire album from KCRW here until March 22nd. (While you're there, OH HEY LOOK THE NEW SHE & HIM ALBUM IS AVAILABLE FOR PREVIEW TOO!)


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