1131 Nearing Road
Moscow, ID 83843
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 2/02
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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No matter how much we shouldn't, the temptation is always there. And far too often we succumb. So-and-so is the next Bob Dylan, the next John Prine, the next Townes Van Zandt. Certainly meant to be congratulatory, such identifiers essentially do a disservice to budding artists. Artistry should stand on its own merits and not be measured against others' sounds and words.
So, Josh Ritter is not the next anything. He is who he is and his music is what it is. There, the slate is clean.
Yeah, you say, so then who is he and what's his music?
Ritter, a native Idahoan in his mid-twenties, has garnered a major folk label contract with his second release, a compilation of twelve originals. His material focuses mainly on the seemingly disconnected, those who can't quite realize what they want and, in some cases, aren't even sure what they are seeking. Call it quiet unease presented with equal parts metaphor and subtext.
Example. Try the opening verse of "Me & Jiggs." He sings:
"Me and Jiggs staring at the ceiling the stars above the radar rangeRitter ventures into Fred J. Eaglesmith farmer and train territory (oops, forgive me for I have sinned) with a couple of songs, the mournful "Lawrence, KS" and the intriguing "Harrisburg."
Song from a station wagon laying foundations on the shadows of overpassing planes
I'm feeling good, at seven o'clock we're gonna drive across the county line
And find Saturday night like an orphan child that the good days left behind..."
Presenting a world-weary fatalism in "Lawrence, KS," his protagonist farmer offers:
"...Some prophecies are self-fulfillingRitter's "Harrisburg" tells the tale of a man on the run, futilely attempting to simultaneously escape his present and reel in the uncaptureable future. He sings:
But I've had to work for all of mine...
...Preacher says that 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"
"It's a long way to Heaven, it's closer to HarrisburgIn "Anne," a forlorn figure's life is consumed by separation and the resulting loneliness. Ritter sings:
And that's still a long way from the place where we are
And if evil exists its a pair of train tracks
And the devil is a railroad car...
...Some say that man is the root of all evil
Others say God's a drunkard for pain
Me I believe that the Garden of Eden
Was burned to make way for a train"
"...You don't deserve what you've gotThe final cut is "Song For The Fireflies," about the possibility of rekindling a relationship. He concludes the song with:
Holy Father of the day-to-day
If you keep such careful watch
Tell me why is she just wasting away..."
"...With intermittent rains and shineEach cut contains some element, a twist, a turn or a sound, that makes it interesting and worthwhile. The backing here is fairly minimal, mostly guitar, with some drums and vocal harmonies. Ritter has a soft but engaging singing voice that brings his material to life.
the sky re-started six or seven times
It's blue because it sees
All our infidelities
We both know that it's been so long
I'm not sure what to say so I hope
Fireflies remember to do exactly what it was they used to"
One comparison I am willing to make--he ain't the next Tex Ritter.
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