Josh Ritter’s seventh album ‘The Beast In It’s Tracks‘ was released in 2013. Anyone who listens to Josh Ritter knows what a fantastic storyteller he is. He has also written quite a lot of songs abut America but doesn’t do the personal thing too much. With ‘The Beast In It’s Tracks’ he finally goes personal. It’s pretty much all about his separation from his wife a few years earlier. I remember when I first heard the record I wasn’t sure about it. However, it has since kind of grown on me and some tracks in particular.
Away from the fact that the theme of this record is different from the usual Josh Ritter record, or at least the few proceeding it, there is also a slightly different sound. The album opener ‘Third Arm’ is a short love song about a girl who reminds him of a past love(wife). The second track ‘Evil Eye’ is a bit more chirpy and a sound you would expect to hear from Ritter. He sings about his ‘new lover’ in ‘A Certain Light’ and about being ‘happy for the first time in a long time’. His decision to open up more on this track starts to explain to you what the album is about. He feels he’s coming out of a winter and that things are looking up. So it’s a hopeful tune, and a sound to match. The standout track for me is up next in the shape of ‘Hopeful’. A true example of his excellent songwriting capabilities as he tells us of his wife leaving him but she still see’s good times ahead for him, despite the fact she’s just not the one. ‘Who’ll keep the whole world spinning when she went away‘. BOOM. Have a listen to this one to get the perspective of a guy who’s just been dumped but keeping it positive. ‘Nightmares’ is a little darker lyrically, he even talks about the dreams nightmares have! He follows one of his nightmares down to hell and ‘spends some time there as well‘.
‘New Lover’ has a great opening minute as he builds and builds with his acoustic guitar in a kind of Bruce Springsteen fashion before declaring he ‘can’t pretend as is well’. He also goes on to sing ‘I’ve got a new lover now I hope you’ve got a lover too’. I find that line pretty ballsy, fair play to him. ‘Hearts Ease’ is about his wish to get away and have it easy, to be where he loves to be and with who he loves. It’s about finding peace. The sound matches the relaxed vocals and ‘In Your Arms Again’ continues this type of sound and goes back once more to his search for a lover. The next two tracks, ‘The Appleblossom Rag’ and ‘Bonfire’ are also very good with ‘Bonfire’ picking up the pace after a few low key tracks and it’s actually very catchy. A funky enough kind of country track pop’s up with ‘In Your Arms Awhile’ and it actually brightens up the record. It’s the type of song you might expect to hear around a campfire or something, simple but effective. The last two tracks are ‘Joy To You Baby’ and ‘Lights’. It’s in these two tracks that I can see the value in the record. I didn’t feel like skipping any track along the way, I was really heeding each line throughout. ‘Joy To You Baby’ is so so good. It’s like it was playing hide and seek waiting for a flashlight to catch it take a breath. Perfectly balanced between a pop rock sound and a love song, it could actually work on the radio as a single. ‘Lights’ closes out the album in a slow peaceful way. He takes his time to say goodbye and its a fitting finish.
The title’s of the tracks will also tell you what to expect. ‘New Lover’, ‘Hopeful’, ‘In Your Arms Again’, ‘Joy To You Baby’ and ‘In Your Arms Awhile’ all try to explain that concept of the album. It’s a break up album but he’s not sulking, he’s getting over it and moving on. Throughout Ritter’s records there is a positive guy writing the songs. He wants to tell stories and in fairness you can listen to his albums anywhere, at anytime. His follow up record, ‘Sermon On The Rocks‘ returned to a full on happy vibe and I’ll get to that one some time in the future. For now, enjoy ‘The Beast In It’s Tracks’.
Photo Credit: Twangville