Local Wire

Josh Rouse

Though it wasn't as startling a musical about-face as, say, Pat Boone's embrace of heavy metal, Josh Rouse took a pretty big leap from semi-depressive alt-country strummer to sunny '70s blue-eyed soul man on last year's 1972, the Nebraska native's fifth album. Whatever the reason (was he tiring of the persistent Jeff Tweedy/Freedy Johnston comparisons that greeted each new release?), Rouse pulled off the switch with style and confidence; brimming with memorable melodies, the disc is probably his best to date.

Strange, then, that he and his band should seem so tentative, even uncomfortable, during this hourlong concert -- which features 13 songs, two-thirds of them drawn from 1972 -- filmed in his adopted hometown of Nashville last New Year's Eve. Maybe Rouse is camera-shy (and there were lots of 'em employed for the shoot, including a particularly invasive nostril-cam) or it was just an off night, but the performances, while not bad, per se, rarely approach the striking moods or levels of exuberance found on the recorded versions. Still, there's a compelling reason to pick up this DVD: an accompanying B-sides and rarities disc, which counts among its 10 terrific tracks a uniquely soulful reworking of the Kinks' "Well Respected Man."

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Michael Alan Goldberg