Rykodisc - 2003 - 43 minutes

One of the great joys of the last six years has been savouring the growth of Josh Rouse's gift. From his barren debut, 'Dressed Up Like Nebraska', to its warmer sounding follow-up, 'Home', and then last year's concept collection, 'Under Cold Blue Stars', Rouse never does the same album twice - a fact that makes you want to buy all of them.

'1972' is his best yet and should also be the biggest, its class and groove enough to make anyone inhale the nostalgia high. It was when Rouse was born and his Telecaster made and together they call in on various characters stuck in the rights, wrong and maybes of the heart with a sound that's retro, but never rip-off.

There's the girl on the title track trading sex for a shot at intimacy, the married man on 'James' swapping them around and hitting the singles bars and one lover trying to figure out another on 'Under Your Charms'. On 'Love Vibration', Rouse even presents how to view the world with the widest of eyes, a rallying call that's so joyous it could make even the jilted take another chance.

The last three tracks seem to be a bridge from one mood into another and aren't as catchy as what went before. But on closer 'Rise', Rouse seems to gather up every feeling on this record and ends with the purest of sentiments: "I think they're gonna come and carry me away from you." And that's exactly how you'll feel about what he's done here.

An excellent year.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: 1972 - Love Vibration - Sunshine (Come on Lady) - James - Slaveship - Comeback (Light Therapy) - Under Your Charms - Flight Attendant - Sparrows Over Birmingham - Rise