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Under Cold Blue Stars

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Album Review

Anyone who has heard Josh Rouse's work would hardly be surprised to learn that his third album, Under Cold Blue Stars, is dominated by musical snapshots which focus on the darker shadows of human relationships; after all, that's what the man does best. But this time out, Rouse sounds a bit less obsessive about the less cheerful side of life, occasionally finding glimpses of happiness along the way, and Under Cold Blue Stars is certainly his most musically inviting work to date. With producer Roger Moutenot at the controls, Rouse has found a sound that's a good bit warmer and more richly textured than the beautiful but stark surfaces of Dressed Up Like Nebraska, and the songs certainly warm to this more full-bodied approach. "Nothing Gives Me Pleasure" is perhaps the least ambiguous love song Rouse has written to date, and the gentle but yearning arrangement gives the tune just the right amount of lift, while the R&B accent of the title cut is hardly what you'd expect from Rouse, but he brings it off beautifully. Under Cold Blue Stars is a loosely structured song cycle about the lives of a Midwestern couple in the 1950s (based in part on his parents), and while the songs don't quite cohere into a unified narrative (that doesn't appear to have been the intention), together they do add up to more than the sum of their parts, with the journeys and arrivals, joys and sorrows, happy holidays and bittersweet reconciliations transforming themselves into the building blocks of life as most of us live it. Under Cold Blue Ground blazes some new trails for John Rouse, but the quality of his songwriting and the emotional impact of his music hasn't changed a bit; it's a solid and satisfying set from a genuinely gifted artist.

Customer Reviews


So the Nashville album gets all the props...but this early album is just as good, if not better. Haunting arrangements, intimate vocals, and hooks with more energy than those found on his later albums make Under Cold Blue Stars a must-have for JR fans. I bought this back in '02, and then when his big big big albums came out in the following years, I thought that his new sound had lost "something," but I couldn't put my finger on it. That unspeakable magic is on this album, though.

One of my favorites - an overlooked treat!

During a recent interview (it may have been on AOL's The Interface), Josh stated that his least favorite record of his is 'Under Cold Blue Stars.' He went on to explain that the recording process was difficult and painstaking. But through his trials (along with those of the album's narrated 1950's couple), he really has crafted a beautiful album. Any fan who was introduced to Mr. Rouse through 'Nashville' or 'Subtitulo' and hasn't given this disc a spin is surely missing out! The album surprisingly works well as a whole, balancing the right amount of acoustic and electric guitar alongside spacey synth motives. The title track is a highlight; the bluesy tone manages to comfortably distract from the somewhat sad story behind it. 'Christmas with Jesus' and 'Feeling No Pain' are gritty, poignant tunes. 'Women and Men' is my personal favorite - the chorus will give you chills and the lyrics are some of the best that Rouse has written. I highly recommend this album as well as its predecessor, 'Home.' At 38 minutes, it's engaging and calls for multiple listens. And if you are able, wait for a clear night and enjoy it under the stars. The atmosphere this record creates definitely suits its title!

What a Journey

I discovered Rouse while he was touring to promote this record. He was opening up for Guster in the fall of `02, I believe. I went to the show to hear Guster but Rouse completely blew me away. After he and his band left the stage, I knew no matter what, Guster would not come close to delivering anywhere near what Rouse had. This album is about a couple taking a journey cross country or at least thats what I get from it and its really Rouses unique ability to get into the head of the songs characters that pulls you in. The production is strong and has a sound all its own. As I have come to expect, Rouses vocals are right on where they need to be, portraying the sentiment of each character and song.


Born: 1972 in Nebraska

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Although born in Nebraska, singer/songwriter Josh Rouse moved to various cities throughout his childhood and subsequent musical career, driven at first by his father's military career and later by his desire to take inspiration from different environments. He paid tribute to his birthplace on his 1998 debut, Dressed Up Like Nebraska, and explored the influence of his adopted home state, Tennessee, with 2005's Nashville. Rouse later settled in Spain and explored the country's musical traditions, although...
Full Bio
Under Cold Blue Stars, Josh Rouse
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Customer Ratings