Josh Ritter | 04.20.13

prev josh-ritter_smThe songs are suited to what mankind did before we had books.

 

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Listening to a Josh Ritter album is always a little bit like pulling a beautifully bound book off of a shelf and cozying up somewhere for a good read. This time, with The Beast in Its Tracks, Ritter’s stories are a little more personal and autobiographical, and so the songs are more suited to what mankind did before we had books. We sat in a circle, around a campfire that kept the beasts at bay and offered us warmth, and told each other tales. There’s even a song on the album called “Bonfire.” Obviously, I’m not the only one who connects to these songs in this way, and imagined Ritter, with guitar in hand by a campfire, as I was listening. Check out this gorgeous poster made by Charles Chrisler by 27 Design Co. for Ritter’s current tour.

A couple of songs on the LP, like “Bonfire” and “New Lover,” carry a torch for Paul Simon in sound, structure, and feel. While these more upbeat and jangly offerings have become my favorites, the album as a whole has captured me completely. I would even go so far as to call it a masterpiece. It’s a Simon’s Graceland or a Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. I don’t hesitate for one single second in likening Ritter to these greats. He’s there. He’s on that level with this record. His put together a collection of thoughts and stories and feelings that may be based on a personal event (a divorce), but are written to be universal and easily tapped into with anyone who’s ever had a heart. Ritter feels like a guide—a Sherpa, if you will—through heartache. “I know where the nightmares sleep/ On what fodder do they feed/ I followed them back down to hell and I spent some time down there myself.”

I’ve always liked Ritter. He’s got such a soothing, lovely timbre to his voice. His songs, while referential to other folk artists, are always filled with unique ways of saying even things that have been said before, and are layered and complex enough to keep them all his own. Ritter is a true poet.

Folk singers are a dime a dozen. If you really listen, though, the true poets are few and far between, and voices like that deserve celebration and your attention. Don’t miss this show. You want to be able say, “I remember seeing Josh Ritter at this intimate show back in…”| Janet Rhoads

Josh Ritter will perform at Vintage Vinyl as part of Record Store Day April 20 at 1 p.m., and with The Royal City Band and opener Lera Lynn that evening at Plush at 8 p.m.

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