Thursday, April 29, 2010

Album review - Josh Ritter 'So Runs The World Away'

Josh Ritter
‘So Runs The World Away’
(Independent Records)

JOSH RITTER has never really appealed to me, I’ve never really understood how the Idaho singer is so popular in - particularly - this country.
Apart from some early promise shown on his second album, Golden Age of Radio, Ritter, who was spotted and adopted by The Frames when he was a fresh faced performer, has never really seemed to live up to the hype.
And what hype; movie stars herald his work, while he has been referred to as “most gifted interpreter of Americana, as an arranger and a lyricist, working today”. Or at least it says so in his press release.
Ritter’s last album, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, left me cold. Bland and boring, it evoked Americana alright, but was of no special originality or boasting any appeal to be remarked upon.
It is refreshing then to have this opinion turned upside down by the merest listen to this rather interesting album, which took Ritter two years to make, and takes its title from a reference to Hamlet.
So Runs The World Away is that strange hybrid of beasts; an album with its roots in sawgrass and blues, incorporating modern day recording techniques and guitar effects, delicate strings and quirky touches here and there - and, if this album doesn’t really sound like a Josh Ritter album, it also certainly doesn’t sound like Mr Ritter himself.
The dark and grim Folk Bloodbath, echoing as it does Nick Cave, is astonishingly guttural and eery, while the flipside is the breezy Lark, a Gospel-influenced ditty that would be at home on the O Brother Where Are Thou soundtrack.
Ritter stretches to evoke Tweedy and co on the Wilco-esque blues standard The Remnant, while he channels Neil Young on the superb Southern Pacifica.
It is the range of sounds on this album that is surprising, with Ritter demonstrating an impressive range, touching the ethereal on See How Man Was Made, and the emotional on the charged Another New World.
It is hard to find a bum note on what is an immensely satisfying album.
Welcome back Josh, all is forgiven.
RATING 4/5 Alan Owens

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