Josh Ritter’s “So Runs the World Away” in Brief

Thirty years from now, when I’m entering the end stages of my life and my kids are just entering their prime, I will tell them about how I listened to Josh Ritter when I was their age, and when they (ideally, pending that they are indeed my kids) give his records a shot, it will evoke for them, images of a folk movement that they feel nostalgic towards, despite that they were never a part of it, and despite that they don’t truly have a good sense of what exactly a “folk movement” is, or if it even really existed at all, except in stock images. Sound familiar? It should.

Josh Ritter’s music is the kind that soars with a kind of virtual reality that is more simplistic than “virtual”; it evokes other times and places you haven’t been to yet with the familiarity of worn-out blue jeans and mom’s home-baked apple pie. Each of his albums seems to evoke a strand of folk music that is beyond both his years and yours, and yet the transition into this realm of the Dylan-esque, this invitation to the Bob Dylan masquerade, feels completely authentic, never disingenuous or a “ripoff” of the folksy coffee house performer he is clearly challenging.

At his best, Ritter is a short-distance cousin of the travelling brakeman, with a wistful poetic dreamer along for the ride. His songs are storyteller songs that contain both specific images and the kinds of lines that allow the listener (in this case, me) to feel a profound sense of both self-pity and vindication from inner demons.

Congratulations, Mr. Ritter; “So Runs the World Away” is another complete gem of a record, the kind that you keep in the forefront of your mind and your record collection, for countless plays and memories and reflections.

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