“Like a baseball player who quietly hits 30 home runs every year or a golfer who regularly finishes in the Top Ten, Josh Rouse‘s continued streak of excellence is easy to ignore and maybe even downplay a little” — Tim Sendra, Allmusic.com
You don’t have to work hard to enjoy Rouse’s music. His songs present themselves to you with an open heart, an innate intelligence and an absolute lack of pretension. They are clear-eyed, empathetic and penetrating. Without pandering, they seek to satisfy both your ear and your understanding. The verses draw you in with telling detail, both musical and thematic, and the choruses lift and deliver. They resolve without seeming overly tidy or pat.
Josh Rouse was born in Nebraska, and following an itinerant upbringing he eventually landed in Nashville where he recorded his debut Dressed Like Nebraska (1998). The album’s acclaim led to tours with Aimee Mann, Mark Etzel and the late Vic Chestnut. The followup- Home (2000)—yielded the song “Directions” which Cameron Crowe used in his film Vanilla Sky.
“Every time I’ve made a record, I’ve tried to make it different from the last one,” says Rouse. “I always became fascinated by a different style of music. But at the end of the day, no matter how eclectic I try to make it, it’s my voice and melodic sensibility that tie things together.”
For his breakthrough album, 1972 (2003), which happens to be the year he was born, Rouse decided to cheer up a bit. Noting that he’d earned a reputation for melancholy, he says, with a laugh, “I figured this is my career, I might as well try to enjoy it.” While the Seventies are often identified with singer-songwriters, Rouse was primarily attracted to the warmer sound of albums back then, as well as the more communal feel of the soul music of that time. The follow up, Nashville (2005) continued the hot streak and expanded his audience further.
After relocating to Valencia, Spain with his wife Paz, Rouse has released a steady stream of high quality songs and albums. Subtitulo (2006) contained the international indie folk hit “Quiet Town”. On El Turista (2010) he even experimented with writing and singing some songs in Spanish. In 2014, he won a Goya Award (the Spanish equivalent of an Oscar) for best song for “Do You Really Want To Be In Love,” from the film ‘La Gran Familia Española.’
The Embers of Time, was one of his strongest—self-described as “my surreal, ex-pat, therapy record.” He followed that up with Love In the Modern Age, which took its musical inspiration from the thinking man’s pop of the eighties: The Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout and the Style Council. And in 2019 he tackled the Christmas album on The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse but instead of well-worn carols or classics, he wrote an entire record of original holiday themed pop songs.
Now in its fifth year, River Town brings the music of America’s heartland to the south west in a summer celebration of roots and Americana music. With a vibrant programme of blues, bluegrass, country and gospel, 2019’s series is packed full of performances from global icons and rising stars.
In 2019 the River Town series takes place at venues across Bristol including St George’s
Bristol, The O2 Academy, SWX, The Winston Theatre at Bristol University SU and The Crofters Rights,
and also makes its first foray into Bath with two performances at The Forum. With artists including k.d. lang, Lucinda Williams, The Shires, The Mavericks, Keb’ Mo’ and Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton, it’s the most ambitious programme yet.
River Town began in 2015 under the banner of Bristol Americana Weekend and under a co-producing partnership between Colston Hall and St George’s Bristol presented Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Larkin Poe, Police Dog Hogan, Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham and many more outstanding artists of American roots music.
The festival returned after wide-spread acclaim in 2016 to feature Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the now internationally famous The White Buffalo.
In 2017 we launched the festival for a third year under the new name of River Town and showcased some of the finest blues, gospel, country and bluegrass, from across the pond and closer to home in Colston Hall, St George’s Bristol and for the first time in O2 Academy. Three UK greats – Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe and Andy Fairweather Low – joined forces in a rare trio performance that celebrated their shared love of American R&B, soul and country. The compelling singer songwriter Martha Wainwright performed along with R&B powerhouse, gospel legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples. Plus performances by duo The Shires with crossover stars Ward Thomas brought country-pop to Bristol.
In 2018 the festival expanded across the city as part of our Colston Hall Presents programme, showcasing events taking place in venues across Bristol during the Hall’s Transformation project. In it’s fourth iteration River Town’s line-up featured music icons Graham Nash and Rosanne Cash alongside The Barr Brothers, Steve Earle & The Dukes, The White Buffalo.