On his debut album, The Beautiful and the Damned, Matt Rouch oscillates between country, folk and acoustic rock in a totally satisfying way. There’s not much distance between these sounds, so the traveling is not especially hard, but Rouch makes the distance pass easily by never fully committing to any one sound. When he’s in folkster mode, he’ll throw in some chamber-pop cellos during the chorus. When he has a bouncy, swinging honky tonk track, he doesn’t feign a twang vocal, instead singing more acoustic rock, though a subtle twang would add more character to his vocals. All this sounds a bit like an identity crisis, but it’s not. Again, it’s satisfying, in the way The Avett Brothers are satisfying, in the way James Taylor is satisfying. This is not boundary-pushing, challenging music, but it doesn’t portend to be. Yet Rouch, in the arrangements, takes some risks by interjecting passages in the songs that defy the Americana standard you would expect, as when he uses cello and xylophone. These sections could be better integrated into the songs, but it’s a pleasant surprise to come across nonetheless. All in all, a promising debut, and it will be interesting to see where he settles. I’m hoping for country.
Studio: Imprint Studios, Thornton, CO
Recording Engineer: Jonathan Osborne
Mixed and Mastered at: Mockingbird Studios, Byron, NY
Producer, Mixing and Mastering Engineer: Joseph Chudyk
Released: March 1, 2016