When I type “some days” into Google, the algorithm helpfully suggests that I might be researching “some days are harder than others”. When I acquiesce to this suggestion, a series of images appear which could be the front of some ghastly Hallmark cards that I might like to send to people I don’t like. There’s nothing quite as banal as “cheer up – things could be worse” but “it’s okay not to be okay – it’s just that some days are harder than others” and “some days are going to be harder than others but you must remember to keep hope in your heart always” are pretty close. Is that a split infinitive? Surely to always keep hope in your heart reads better. My friend John, who worked with me at Brays Grove School in Harlow, once refused to let me send a letter to a parent about their poorly behaved son, because I had split an infinitive. I don’t really know what an infinitive is but I know that “to boldly go” is wrong and “to go boldly” is correct. Maybe “to keep always” is correct after all. It doesn’t scan well. Anyone reading my ramblings, hoping to find out something about Josh Rouse, is unlikely to have got this far. I’d better try and get to the point.
Yesterday I wrote about the magnificent new album by Beth Orton. It wasn’t immediately accessible to me but after a few listens, the unusual sound and feeling of it permeated into my consciousness. It’s likely to be an album I return to over and over and it’s a contender for album of the year.
Some days are harder than others and no two days are identical. A few years ago I taught four second year A level classes who were following the same curriculum and I would teach identical lessons to all four classes. Except, they weren’t identical lessons. The students were different, their responses differed, my energy levels fluctuated and my jokes improved with the re-telling. So no two lessons were identical in the same way that no two days are identical. I got up early yesterday to carry out a shift at Samaritans between 5:00 and 7:00 and did very little for the rest of the day apart from bask in the glory of Beth Orton’s music. I got up at 6:00 this morning, fed Bruno and I’m not especially looking forward to today when Roo and I will have COVID booster jabs, after which I am attending a three hour meeting. I retired three years ago to avoid pointless meetings. No two days are the same and yesterday’s desire for some demanding but rewarding music has been replaced by a wish to listen to something which is easier to listen to.
Easy listening. Is that an insult or a compliment? I’ve never forgiven Englebert Humperdinck for keeping “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever” off the Nimber One spot in February 1967, and I consider “Release Me” to be the epitome of easy listening. So, the answer is that “easy listening” is definitely an insult.
However, there is no doubt that “Going Places” is easy to listen to. Josh Rouse says that he “wanted to make an album that was not too deep. Something you’d want to hear if you went out. It was made to play live”. When I try to think of similar music to this, I always come back to The Eagles. “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” are great country-pop songs, in which the titles say it all. “Going Places” fits right into the same category. These are pure pop songs, with marvellous musicianship, lovely lyrics and, most importantly, memorable melodies.
Josh Rouse divides his time between his native Nebraska and another home in Valencia, Spain. During lockdown, he used a recording studio at his Spanish home to record a series of upbeat songs. He has made 13 albums and has never been afraid to explore new sounds. His last release was a Christmas album, in 2018 he released an electronica album called “Love In The Modern Age” and 2010’s “El Turisto” was a chilled acoustic experimental album. During lockdown, he determined not to make a melancholy album using major sevenths and minor sevenths to give his music a mellow feel. He says that the Seventies influence is ingrained into all his music.
Another reference point is the music of The Jayhawks and Gary Louris from that Minnesota band sings on “City Dog” which has an arresting electric guitar part, played by Josh Rouse.
“The Lonely Postman” is an old song of his, inspired by his father’s job, and is a delightful pop tune whose harmonies sound like the hit that Herman’s Hermits never had in 1966.
I just asked my wife what she thought of the music that is accompanying her breakfast and she used the words “pleasant” and “dull” within the same sentence. There’s a whole dissertation to be written on whether or not music can be simultaneously pleasant and dull. To my ears, this is the perfect upbeat start to the pleasant but dull day that awaits.