CD CHOICE: The Beast in Its Tracks, YepRoc ****
In 2006 he was named one of the 100 Greatest Living Songwriters by Paste magazine. Bright’s Passage, his 2011 novel, was garlanded with praise from all the right broadsheet newspaper critics. American singer-songwriter Josh Ritter has obviously arrived at a point in his sparkling career where everyone, but everyone, loves him.
Well, everyone, that is, except Ritter’s former wife, musician Dawn Landes, who ended their 18-month marriage on November 1st, 2010, while he was touring in Calgary.
In a press release for this, his first album in three years, Ritter himself writes, “I had no experience with divorce . . . I felt quite certain I could walk out in front of a bus at any moment . . . That night, and for the next three weeks, I went on stage as usual, smiled, and kept away from bridges.”
Such is the power and depth of The Beast in Its Tracks that you can feel Ritter’s sense of conflict seeping from every painfully personal song. One of the most obvious comparisons (in music terms at least) is Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, with which this album’s title, deliberately I’d guess, shares a certain poetic, bitter resonance.
Yet Ritter’s voice is very much his own. Across 13 tuneful and narrative-driven songs, he again and again nails down – hard, fast and with barely contained sobs – the realisation that good things really don’t last forever. And when the worst happens, the emotional fallout is sometimes too much to bear let alone contemplate.
What underpins the album is Ritter’s unashamed, here-it-is vulnerability; self-pity is an odious thing, but in short, sharp doses it clarifies matters to the point where you either capitulate or proceed to the next part of your life.
Forgive and forget? Ritter does a bit of both and none of either. joshritter.com
Download: A Certain Light, In Your Arms Again, Joy to You Baby