Josh Ritter - Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter

Hungry Ear Music
1800 Mineral Springs Ave.
Suite 157
N. Providence, RI 02904

A review written for the Folk & Alliance Music Exchange
by Moshe Benarroch
(moben@barak-online.net)

Listening to twenty-three year old Josh Ritter's debut recording, I can't help but predict that one day I'll see this same album with some extra tracks bearing the title "Early Recordings" or "First Album." Ritter sounds like someone who is going to be very well-known someday. I wouldn't say famous, but at least he will soon have a cult following comparable to Waits in the 70's, or James McMurtry and Nick Cave today. And who knows, he may even become a star.

Why? The first thing you notice right away is that Ritter has a very distinctive style. He has that certain something that is hard to define, whether it's in his lyrics, his singing or his playing, that makes him stand apart from the crowd. He's got a presence that makes you want to listen to the CD again and again.

This is mostly a guitar and vocal recording although there are four players appearing in the booklet playing cello, percussion and tambura. I mostly heard Ritter with his guitar in front of everything. The music is very folky, mostly of the 60's type. His lyrics have an urgency that is hard to match, and a poignancy to make you laugh:

I had been to Cleveland and you had been to jail
You seemed to be recovering but I felt a little pale
Our house it was on Seventeenth above the hardware store
And there we lived with seven cats named for seven dwarves
(From "Leaves And Kings")

Humor, as well as the last days of adolescence, the search for love, and for intensity, mark this recording. Ritter's voice reminds me of very early Waits, of James McMurtry and sometimes Lou Reed. He has a very detached way of singing and playing. It's as if he doesn't care who is listening, very often sounding like he is singing for himself, and you are in the other room asking yourself "Who is this guy?"

It's not the perfect debut album, though, with some songs lacking in consistency, or giving the feeling that they could do better if Ritter had waited one more year to come out with this album and lived with them longer. Lines like "No I'll never fly to you/ It's the last thing I would do/ You have dug two holes so deep/ And I'm afraid that one's for me" could be polished a bit more in order to lend something more original. In any case, Ritter is a man to watch. I believe he will make it.

And if we're talking about predictions, here are Ritter's:

And a thousand years from now when our names are just a memory
And poets have recorded what has happened in the past
Lovers loving in the night will find our forms in constellations
Seekers seeking for salvation will find our stories in stained glass
(From "Potters Wheel")

Song List:

  • Leaves and Kings
  • Beautiful Night
  • Hotel Song
  • Paint Your Picture
  • Angels On Her Shoulders
  • Morning is a Long Way Down
  • Potter's Wheel
  • Letter From Omaha
  • Last Ditch Effort (see you try)
  • Paths Will Cross
  • Pretty Polly
  • Horrible Qualities
Playing Time: 46 minutes.

Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz
(rschwartz@oeb.harvard.edu)

Copyright 1999, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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