Josh Ritter – So Runs The World Away [Album and Concert Review]

by That Guy on May 19, 2010

Ritter

I first heard about this guy named Josh Ritter back in 2000 or 2001 on a little-known website called Audiogalaxy.com. Anyone? Bueller? It was basically a poor man’s Napster, with comments and suggestions from other music downloaders. I spent roughly 5,000 hours on the site, scouring it for music. This was long before music blogs like HearYa, so I was fending for myself in this vast music world, stumbling upon artists like John Mayer, Joseph Arthur, and Mofro based on other people’s comments.

That’s when I read a comment suggesting to download a song called “Me and Jiggs” by Josh Ritter. If I remember correctly, I think the comment said something like, “It’ll change your life.” They may have been right.

Flash forward several months and I’m seeing Josh Ritter for the first time at Schubas opening up for some guy guy I’m now embarrassed to say I saw live. Josh took the stage in front of 100 people, flashed a huge smile, professed how nervous he was, and asked the audience to scream with him so he could get his nerves out. He thanked the crowd over and over for being there.‚ It was incredibly endearing.

Now flash forward about 9 years to this past Saturday night. The lady friend and I buried some Mongolian chicken from Cooking Fools and headed up to The Vic just in time to catch Joe Pug’s solo set. Joe absolutely knocked it out of the park. Just an amazingly heartfelt set that sounded incredible in that big room.‚ Shirk (our live session producer) got there a little earlier than me, so we met at the balcony bar for a beer before Josh’s set. Shirk mentioned how Joe Pug admired Josh Ritter, so it must have been a thrill to open up for him. And when Ritter called Joe back out on stage during the encore to play “Speak Plainly Diana” (Joe’s own song) with The Royal City Band for the packed house…wow. It really showed how selfless and gracious Ritter really is.

When Ritter first stepped on stage, he approached the capacity crowd of 1300 the same way he did all those years earlier at Schubas – with thankfulness and a palpable giddiness. He was smiling ear to ear, jumping all over the stage in excitement between songs, and even banged out a couple pushups before “The Remnant.” And somewhere along the way he covered a heart-stopping version of Springsteen’s “The River.” Good heavens.

Songs from his new album, So Runs The World Away, dominated the set. And after listening to the album only a few times, I was happy to hear them in a live setting. The crowd had a little trouble getting up to speed on some of the singalong parts due to their newness, but Ritter sprinkled in plenty of old favorites too.

The live set confirmed that So Runs The World Away is fantastic.‚ It’s right on par with some of Ritter’s older work, and that’s saying something. This is his 5th proper release, and I’d challenge anyone to find a more consistent artist out there right now. Not only has the guy not released a single dud in his 10 year career, I’d venture to say he hasn’t released a single album that isn’t amazing.

So Runs the World Away is possibly Ritter’s most dense work to date, with more risks musically but while keeping his signature verbosity and lyrical complexity. This is a guy that makes Will Sheff’s songs sound like instrumentals. “The Curse” is the obvious standout track, with a storyline that makes you think “How in blazes did you even THINK of that?” Other standout tracks include “Lantern,” “Folk Bloodbath,” the Paul Simon-esque “Lark,” “Orbital,” and “Southern Pacifica.”

The entire thing is great. Definitely in my top 5 releases of the year so far. Check it out.

Josh Ritter – The Curse (via I Guess I’m Floating)

Live Video: Josh Ritter – The Curse (In Studio on WFUV)

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody May 19, 2010 at 10:09 am

Did you really just reminisce about the time you discovered John Mayer? Was that when you Poochie would sit around singing Your Body Is A Wonderland to each other?

That all being said, I will give you and Oz credit for force-feeding Josh Ritter down my throat. i never gave him the proper credit he so richly deserved. I am by no means as well versed on his work as you are, but I am really enjoying this new disc. He is a special talent.

Mandy May 19, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Joe Pug wrote about the honor of playing with Ritter in his latest newsletter and attached a video for those who missed it.

“Sharing a stage with him was, personally, momentous.”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JV5FPvy-II

Shawn May 19, 2010 at 5:31 pm

I couldn’t get through the rest of the write-up once you refused to mention who the headliner was the first time you saw Josh. I just skimmed the rest…hoping for the big, shameful reveal.

Damnit.

oz May 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I agree with Shawn. Just purge yourself of this demon. I have one or two guesses…

That Guy May 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm

No problem, gents. I’m just happy someone actually skimmed one of my posts. As I wrote this I was thinking it was either Matt Nathanson or Howie Day. But now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I saw Matt Nathanson open up for Howie Day at Schubas. Regardless, that tells you I’ve seen them both live, so there. Feel better now? I don’t.

As for Woody – don’t make me mark your comments as spam.

Adam May 19, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I was at the show this weekend as well and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. He’s one of the most captivating performers I’ve ever seen. I had listened to the new album a lot, but for some reason it hadn’t connected in the same way the older stuff had. That all changed on Saturday night. You were spot on about The River. Seriously, I had goosebumps after ‘Monster Ballads’…and then he went right into ‘The River’… words can’t describe how amazing that was. However, the highlight of the night for me was having Poe’s ‘Annabel Lee’ read before busting into ‘Another New World.’ That song’s story got that much stronger with that lead in. No one writes a song, and tells a story through song, like Josh Ritter right now.

Mike May 20, 2010 at 10:43 am

This was a great show by Ritter and his band, as usual. He always seems to have more fun at his shows than anyone else. Here are a few videos I shot during the show:
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=F622FBFA4C83AFF8

Selvam, Sivagangai December 1, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I like ‘The Curse’. Much of this album is alright to me.

Kate February 15, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Thanks for posting this. I’m a huge fan of his, but don’t go to concerts very much (or ever). You convinced me to get tickets to his show this Thursday with Frightened Rabbit.

That Guy February 16, 2011 at 12:07 am

Good call, Kate. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Let us know how the show is!

Stephane August 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

One of the best performer i have ever seen, we love you Josh!

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