The Happiness Waltz
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Over the course of 15 years and ten albums, Josh Rouse has kept on a steady but ever-so-slightly shifting path of beautifully breezy folk-pop. It’s had its detours here and there, from his embrace of earth-tone, polyester AM pop on 1972, to the flamenco-influenced sounds of El Turista. Yet each of these albums is identifiably Rouse’s, warm and welcoming, and bearing the voice of a troubadour who has logged a lot of miles, but never loses his gentle charisma. This holds true for The Happiness Waltz, a crowd-funded effort that finds Rouse essentially getting back to making the kind of soothing and serene Saturday afternoon Americana that he’s always done best. There’s a slight tinge of jazz cool in opening track “Julie (Come Out of the Rain),” an early highlight to the album, while “Simple Pleasure” marks an upswing in tempo, and a subtle touch of banjo. By and large, however, there’s a laid-back, lounge feel throughout much of the record, lending some colorful charm to “It’s Good to Have You” and a good-time swing to “This Movie’s Way Too Long.” There isn’t much in the way of surprises on The Happiness Waltz, though that’s no knock against Rouse; a songwriter of his caliber need not reinvent himself to create something rewarding.