Ryko - 2005 - 39 minutes

One of those refreshing constants is that you can always depend on Josh Rouse to come up with songs that will make you wonder how you ever managed without them. 'Nashville' begins with two: the wonderful pull-the-drapes romance of 'Nighttime' and 'Winter in the Hamptons', a Smiths homage with a melody great enough to grace any of the legends' albums.

After those highs, however, 'Nashville' becomes a little predictable and, following on from the genius of Rouse's last album '1972', something of a disappointment. Rouse's gift is that he makes songwriting seem effortless, but some songs here seem too easy and too close in feel to '1972' to stand out. Most singer-songwriters would sell their souls for them, but Rouse is capable of more - a fact that the by-the-numbers bar boogie of 'Why Won't You Tell Me What' makes all too clear.

In a funny way, Rouse is a victim of technology. The front cover of 'Nashville' shows that the album is meant to be considered as a 'Side A' and 'Side B' affair with five tracks on each. If you listen in that way, with pauses between each, it's more memorable, although there's still the temptation to keep going back to the first two songs on Side A.

Even though it's sometimes average, the friendly sounds here should be enough to give Rouse his biggest audience yet. He deserves that success, but people owe it to him and themselves to hear his other records too.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: It's the Nighttime - Winter in the Hamptons - Streetlights - Carolina - Middle School Frown - My Love Has Gone - Saturday - Sad Eyes - Why Won't You Tell Me What - Life