Pytheas Recordings/Thirty Tigers
The Stars Have Aligned For The Chameleon of Americana.
For the second time this week I’ve been listening to an album by an artist that sounds unlike anything they’ve recorded previously; which is a) challenging and b) a very good thing.
When posting a single, earlier this year from from Josh Ritter’s 10th album FEVER BREAKS I described him as a chameleon; and now I’m immersed in the whole album I can’t think of a better word to describe his career and this actual set of songs.
First and foremost; these songs are both stereotypical Josh Ritter and the very heart and soul of what we know as Americana.
The punchy and almost American Gothic The Ground Don’t Want Me opens proceedings like a rusty Camero……. stinging words that are only matched by a pedal-steel; alongside a neat toe-tapping beat from the singer and his band. Oddly enough it’s a song that will sit comfortably in a Honky-Tonk and a Theatre; which is quite some achievement.
Next up is the single That Ole Black Magic, which we loved earlier in the year and sitting alongside it’s peers it still sounds full of piss n vinegar; and Ritter has already shown the Hip Kids how to put the Alt. into Country and we are only two songs in!
Mercifully not everything is quite so Fast n Furious; Josh slows things down in a manner that’s not a million miles away from the style Dylan perfected on Nashville Skyline; The Torch Committee tells a very dark tale that is sadly as relevant today as it was when set in the 1950’s; All Some Kind of Dream is as dark as it’s sad as Josh sings of today’s American attitude to immigration and compares it to his country’s forefathers…….. and it’s well worth seeking out.
Perhaps Jason Isbell’s production brings out something special in Ritter’s storytelling via these varied arrangements; but I’d never have known he had his stamp on this album if I hadn’t been force fed it via the Press Release, as Ritter’s mature storytelling on A New Man and On The Water would have risen to the surface regardless of whoever was twiddling the knobs in the control room.
As is my won’t I must now select a Favourite Song and that’s been far from easy, as nearly every song here has it’s merits, with the lonesome Silverblade being as good a Country song as I’ve ever heard from this songwriter; and then there’s the delightfully sensitive Blazing Highways Home which is clever, articulate and humble in equal measures; but I’m going back to I Still Love You (Now and Then) which is the type of Love Song that Americana Music does better than any other genre; and Ritter manages to capture the emotions that linger after a breakup better than most; and if I say it’s in the mould of Guy Clark’s latter-day songs; that should be praise enough.
Josh Ritter has been around a long time time, grafting away on the circuit and only releasing albums when he felt the material was strong enough; and it’s quite possible that the stars have finally aligned for him on this rather wonderful album.
Released April 26th 2019