So Runs the World Away
As Josh Ritter christened his career and set sail in search of his musical horizon many well-wishers nodded in approval at the one they deemed a new savior of the art of folk music. As Ritter’s career comes into focus on this, his 6th album, it is clear that he is not a folk traditionalist although he does borrow liberally from the canon. Ritter is an original, an explorer with a unique voice who will never harbor in any one category of music, and that is to the benefit of those lucky enough to recognize his vision.
So Runs the World Away is a dense, sometimes brooding, but ultimately uplifting dissection of human emotions. There is a depth to the production that feels like a dive into a deep pool. As you sink waves of sound, sometimes muffled, waiting to be deciphered, roll over you. Lyrics are woven together with the deliberateness of a poet. Ritter is a thoughtful man who charms with wonderful turns of phrase, dazzles with literate metaphors (often oceanic in nature), and captures details that vividly bring life to his characters and stories.
From song to song, Ritter deftly skirts tempo and mood changes. “Change of Time” a perfect pop song, is followed by “The Curse,” a melancholy waltz. Later, still, Ritter plays with the stylized, spooky “Rattling Locks” a song that sounds a lot like an outtake from a T Bone Burnett or Tom Waits album. “Folk Bloodbath” reveals both Ritter’s knowledge of folk music and his sense of humor. He takes several of folks most murderous or unfortunate characters – Louis Collins, Delia and Stagger Lee - and cast them into a confrontational mix with obvious disastrous effect. “Lantern” is a wonderful track that begins with an appeal for salvation and ends with hope; the music plays along, muted at first, it builds to a joyful crescendo.
My favorite track on So Runs the World Away is the 7 minute epic “Another New World” a tale of exploration and loss. Ritter, along with producer Sam Kassirer, create a frozen polar world with atmospheric arrangements that leave space for the emptiness to exhibit itself. Is this a song about a man’s relationship with his ship or is there something more going on? Take it at face value or allow your own experiences to explore the depths of this song.