Josh Rouse

The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse

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What does a Christmas album sound like? Whatever you're imagining, it probably isn't a lot like Josh Rouse's first holiday-themed release, 2019's The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse, and that's one of the best things about it. Instead of trying to bend his soulful and rootsy approach to covers of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" or "Silent Night," Rouse has written nine tunes that allow him to do what he does well -- and they just so happen to be about the Christmas season. The Holiday Sounds is a collection of short stories of people's lives told with wit, compassion, and a keen eye, and though they all have something to do with common late-December events, they're smart and engaging enough to work no matter what month it may be. "Red Suit" imagines a laid-back Santa kicking back during the off-season, "Easy Man" has a breezy, jazz-infused feel as Josh goes with the Yuletide flow, "New York Holiday" celebrates a big-city Christmas with a piano line that nods to Vince Guaraldi, and "Heartbreak Holiday" offers sympathy to those who have been recently dumped while the rest of the world celebrates. The melodies have a warm, comfortable tone, and the friendly, slightly dusty sound of Rouse's voice is a fine complement to the primarily acoustic arrangements, with Brad Jones' keyboards and vibraphone and James "Hags" Haggerty's bass earning special kudos. If you want something for your big holiday party that will be familiar to all your guests, The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse is not at all what you're looking for. But if you want to hear a gifted singer and songwriter deliver a set of thoroughly pleasing songs that feel as comfortable as your favorite sweater, this is just the thing to play as you enjoy a roaring fire and the glow of the Christmas tree. (The CD version of The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse also includes a bonus disc where Rouse puts his spin on three holiday classics you certainly know by heart as well as demo versions of three tracks from the album.)

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