Josh Ritter "The Beast In Its Tracks

Josh Ritter produces a stark, raw, and ultimately uplifting rendering of the heartbreak, struggles and survival of divorce.

 Divorce can be a killer, sometimes almost literally. In the liner notes for The Beast In Its Tracks Josh Ritter addresses how divorce can rob you of your will to live, how suicidal thoughts begin to feel like real options. Fortunately most of us pass through this phase as has the songwriter. Since his divorce from musician Dawn Landes Ritter has landed on his feet, despite a health scare that left him near death.  He’s found a new love, become a father, and published his first novel. As you might suspect, this album packs an emotional punch.  

 The Beast In Its Tracks follows the emotional stages of divorce but from the vantage point of having reached the other side of the dark tunnel. The pain and despair of betrayal, the grief that alternates with rage and remorse is equalized by the healing power of new love, by the acceptance of personal blame, and the realization of glorious survival. Ritter is a generous writer; he searches for the golden moments in the failed relationship, keeping them safe like fragile gems, but he’s not immune to the lingering anger. Songs of forgiveness are interrupted by eruptions of frustrated self-righteousness. “New Lover” finds Ritter releasing his past love of guilt while slinging a witty verbal dagger her way in the last line. Yet Ritter is mostly forgiving toward both his ex and himself. “Joy To You, Baby” is a wish for happiness all around.

 Ritter teamed up with his long-time producer and friend Sam Kassirer to record the album in a just a few live sessions. The production is stark, raw, and uncomplicated. Fingers are heard sliding up the frets, background noise is captured as part of the experience, and the instruments echo off of walls. Ritter’s vocals are earnest and clear. His lyrics offer delightful poetic rhythms and ingeniously descriptive language. Far from being a dark record of broken hopes, The Beast In Its Tracks  logs the triumph of the human spirit as it struggles to make the best of hard learned lessons.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)