With just a glance it's clear that Josh Rouse, like other lesser lights in white-boy roots songwriting, makes much ado about his hometown. But Rouse's literate, melodic writing bears more of a resemblance to the work of '70s pop songwriters like Alex Chilton and Carole King than the well-tread tropes of the Nashville sound. Neither is his latest necessarily a portrait of the place for which it is named; many of this record's finest tunes — infectious and upbeat ditties that clock in neatly around the three-minute mark — are dispatches from well outside the city limits. The best of these, “Winter in the Hamptons,” is all sunny harmonies, sweeping slide guitar, and a chorus of fey “ba-ba-bas.” Others, like “My Love Is Gone,” “Middle School Frown,” and “Carolina,” aren't far behind, even when Rouse occasionally has his hand in the cookie jar of Replacements guitar parts. Nashville is a record that proves Rouse is worthy of his title as one of that city's “best-kept secrets.” Hopefully that's a designation he'll soon outgrow.
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