Friday, November 7, 2008

5 Songs by Josh Ritter

So I’ve done several of these “my music taste is so incredible, that everyone must know about it!” posts. And so far the most recent song I have featured was from Bob Dylan’s latest album. Every single other song was written and release before I was born. And I’m not that young.

I’m not sure why exactly I relate so much with the music of the mid to late 60’s and early 70’s, other than it’s the best music ever made. I have a big, long drawn out explanation of why the second generation of rock and roll is the genre’s apex, but I won’t waste your time with it today. Instead I would like to illustrate that I am in fact not 58 years old (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) and I am capable of really getting into a contemporary artist.

Josh Ritter (not John Ritter, though if he had an album I would probably listen to it) was introduced to me by my buddy Spencer in 03. Ritter is part of the Alt Country thing that has been big in every Barnes and Noble coffee bar over the last five years or so. Of the other artists associated with that term, (Ryan Adams, Whiskeytown, Wilco, Bob Schneider, Drive By Truckers and others) Ritter is by far my favorite. He has released five albums since 1999. They are all different and all amazing.

His song writing has an effortless authenticity. It is a sound that is fundamentally American without being self consciously rural. It isn’t trying so damn hard to prove to you that it’s homegrown the way mainstream Country does. And don’t let that “c” word scare you off. I hate the Country music you hear on the radio. It is all phony to the bone. But I love, repeat love Classic Country. Ritter has that same kind of feel. He is the real deal.
Harrisburg – Golden Age of Radio 2002

Trains are an image that has long been referenced by the great American song writers. Woody, Hank, Bob, Johnny to name a very few use trains as a symbol to inspire either thoughts of freedom or industrial dominance. This song bemoans the chaos that that freedom brings. “Me, I believe that the Garden of Eden was burned to make way for a train.”
Wings – Hello Starling 2003

This is a really quiet song that again relies heavily on American archetypes. This song sounds like a John Steinbeck book.

“Inside a gilded cage a songbird always looks so plain.” That line perfectly articulates why the most beautiful thing a woman can wear is a ponytail, a t shirt and jeans. Makeup, overly done hair, expensive cloths often doesn’t compliment their beauty. It distracts from it.
Potter’s Wheel – Josh Ritter 1999

“Your beauty unexpected like a flower in the concrete” I love songs that have a pleasant, repetitive rhythm with quickly delivered vocals over it. It’s like a happy version of “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding” or “Hit ‘Em Up”.
The Temptation of Adam – Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter 2007

This is a strange combination of acoustic folk and a science fiction love story. It tells the story of the last two people alive on earth in a bomb shelter. Kind of a weird subject matter but it totally works.
Kathleen – Hello Starling 2003

“All the other girls here are stars, you are the northern lights.” Great line. This song instantly conjures up for me the feeling of an August dusk in Utah.


Spencer said...

Lawerence, Kansas. That was the first song I ever really listened to- like really listened to. It still brings me to a place I've never been, but feel like I know so well.

In other news. It seems a lot of angry people have confused me for you. Not that it isn't a compliment. I just think credit should be given when credit is due.

BusterBluth52 said...

Spencer, I apologize if people have confused your judgmental prickness for my judgmental prickness. I think there is a direct correlation between lack of intelligence and an eagerness to feel insulted. There are a lot of defensive dumbshits out there.

Back to Josh; I don't know why it took me so long, but I think his latest two albums may be my favorites. I had Animal Serenade for almost a year before I really listened to it. Fantastic stuff.