With only the odd slug of southern discomfort to warm their frostbitten hearts, Nashville's [B]Josh Rouse & Kurt Wagner[/B] are the latest travellers to negotiate alt-country's bittersweet terrain....
With only the odd slug of southern discomfort to warm their frostbitten hearts, Nashville’s Josh Rouse & Kurt Wagner are the latest travellers to negotiate alt-country’s bittersweet terrain. But where their day jobs have borne rich fruit (Wagner is frontbloke with the slyly insouciant [a]Lambchop[/a], while singer/songwriter Rouse‘s 1998 debut ‘Dressed Up Like Nebraska’ furnished the genre with welcome swathes of blue-collar charm) this side-project volunteers no such comforts.
A mini-album just five tracks long, ‘Chester’ sees the duo’s dappled muse trot listlessly round a creative cul-de-sac. Though Wagner‘s lyrics are as queasily bathetic as ever, Rouse – who assumes sole charge of tune-scribbling duties – appears content to contribute as little as possible lyrically. His hazy, semi-conceived visions stretch only as far as the bass-slappin’, matted-beard blues of ‘Table Dance’ or the Tim Buckley-in-a-coma yawn that is ‘I Couldn’t Wait’.
Only the deceptively sweet ‘Somehow You Could Always Tell’ sees the duo’s creative horns lock successfully – a fleeting glint of needle-sharp, paranoid invention twinkling through the apathetic fug. With neither the conviction or enthusiasm to turn their hobby into a fully-operational concern, Rouse and Wagner‘s meek lurch for alt-country’s tarnished crown seems simply gauche. Back to the day job, boys.