The Embers of Time marks something of a return to his earlier sound, and it was recorded in part in his former Nashville base, with longtime collaborator Brad Jones (Kelly Willis, Chuck Prophet) producing. There's plenty of harmonica and pedal steel here, while neatly arranged strings add textures to tunes like "Pheasant Feather" and "Ex-Pat Blues." A constant in all of Rouse's work is his delightfully melodic voice, one that injects just a tinge of melancholy into its essential warmth.
The first two-thirds of this album are nearly flawless; the gentle shuffle of opening track "Some Days I'm Golden All Night" sets the mood, the country-folk hippie vibe to "New Young" suits lyrics telling of "making plans to move out to the country" and "Time" is a quiet reflection on its passing. There are a couple of stumbles down the backstretch, though. "Jr Worried Blues" is the sort of laidback bluesy shuffle JJ Cale did better, and rather nondescript closing track "Crystal Falls" also fails to shine, but the album still stands as a lovely addition to a discography worthy of more recognition. (Yep Roc)