Josh Ritter–Now and Then

Jul 18th, 2010 in Music

We have been fans of Josh Ritter since his first formal release, “The Golden Age of Radio,” back in 2001.  Though the spawn of two neuroscientists and raised in Idaho, Josh had a Midwestern air about him (with his references to Lawrence, Kansas and “dry land farming”).  And we Leforts are suckers for the Midwestern touch and so were immediately smitten with Ritter.  But beyond the geographical allusions and pull, we have come to know Ritter as a phenomenally talented and engaging songwriter, regardless of locale.  He has a flair for both bereaved ballads and upbeat ululations filled with mark-hitting melodies and well-turned phrases.

Ritter recently released his new record, “So Runs the World Away,” and it is filled with his usual song gems, with their stories, historical tales and parchment parables.  The songs feature cascading wordplay and atmospherics provided by maudlin horns, and come across as alternately funny, bittersweet, and strangely striking despite the eclectic and detailed subject matter (he has been inclined to history-based lyrics, ever since his 2001 Harrisburg song).   The record title and the music on this new record speak to mankind’s exploratory exploits, but also the dejection and realism found in the unobtainable.   Ritter suggests that our exploratory campaigns will continue unceasingly though much will be ventured and lost in the process.  Such is life, we murmur.  And we hum “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Check out a few of the gems off of each of his new one and his first one below.

Josh Ritter–Change of Time (from the new one)

“I had a dream last night
I dreamt that I was swimming
And the stars up above
Directionless and drifting
Somewhere in the dark
Were the sirens and the thunder
And around me as I swam
The drifters who’d gone under

Time, love
Time, love
Time, love
It’s only a change of time

I had a dream last night
And rusting far below me
Battered hulls and broken hardships
Leviathan and Lonely
I was thirsty so I drank
And though it was salt water
There was something ’bout the way
It tasted so familiar

The black clouds I’m hanging
This anchor I’m dragging
The sails of memory rip open in silence
We cut through the lowlands
All hands through the saltlands
The white caps of memory
Confusing and violent

I had a dream last night
And when I opened my eyes
Your shoulder blade, your spine
Were shorelines in the moon light
New worlds for the weary
New lands for the living
I could make it if I tried
I closed my eyes I kept on swimming

(rough seas, they carry me wherever I go)”

Josh Ritter–Change of Time

[audio:|titles=02 Change Of Time]

Josh Ritter–See How Man Was Made (also off the new one)

Here’s a self-explanatory beauty.

[audio:|titles=10 See How Man Was Made]

From his first album, we liked Other Side, and the following lyrics:

“I’m still waiting for the whiskey to whisk me away
And I’m still waiting for the ashtray to lead me astray
I twist the cul-de-sacs into one way signs
I’m going round in circles on the other side”

Josh Ritter–Other Side

[audio:|titles=08 Other Side]

And perhaps our favorite Ritter song, Lawrence, Kansas, from his first:

“Dirt roads and dryland farming might be the death of me
But I can’t leave this world behind
Debts are not like prison where there’s hope of getting free
And I can’t leave this world behind

I’ve been from here to Lawrence, Kansas
Trying to leave my state of mind
Trying to leave this awful sadness
But I can’t leave this world behind

South of Delia there’s a patch out back by the willow trees
And I can’t leave this world behind
It’s a fenced in piece of nothing where I hear voices on my knees
And I can’t leave this world behind

Some prophecies are self-fulfilling
But I’ve had to work for all of mine
Better times will come to me, God willing
Cause I can’t leave this world behind

This world must be frightening everybody’s on the run
And I can’t leave this world behind
And my house is a wooden one and its built on a wooden one
Seems I can’t leave this world behind

Preacher says when the Master calls us
He’s gonna give us wings to fly
But my wings are made of hay and corn husks
So I can’t leave this world behind”

Josh Ritter–Lawrence, Kansas

[audio:|titles=04 Lawrence, KS]

And check out Ritter’s simple, but affective cover of Modest Mouse’s Blame it on the Tetons here.

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