Josh Ritter – The Beast in Its Tracks
By Kevin Nelson
Divorce is never a happy subject. The inherent sadness inherent no doubt creates a mournful tone, but mournful is truly the bread and butter of singer-songwriter types, so it’s perfectly suited for Josh Ritter’s latest, The Beast in Its Tracks.
Written and recorded in the 18 months following a split from his wife, Ritter took a more focused, personal approach than he’s taken on his previous albums in covering his real-world pain. The Beast in Its Tracks doesn’t feature the epic, fantastical stories that characterized some of his earlier work—there are no mummy romances or post-apocalyptic love stories (“I won her over singing W-W-I-I-I”) in this piece. Instead, it’s predominantly Josh, a guitar, and some good old fashioned heartbreak.
Standout tracks include “Bonfire,” “In Your Arms Again” and the Dylan-infused “New Lover.” The Dylan comparison is especially apt for this entire album, as Ritter was in a similar situation to Blood on the Tracks-era Dylan or Springsteen on Tunnel of Love.
What really carries the album is Ritter’s well-known lyrical ability. This could have been a piece that just attacked the ex-wife or buried under self-pity, but the cleverness elevates it above such pettiness. When he sings “Supposedly, it was a wise, wise man / Who said it is better to have loved and lost / Than never to not have loved at all,” the play on a famous saying combined with a double negative just comes across as sublime.
Again, divorce is never a happy subject. But when tinged in such a masterpiece as The Beast in Its Tracks, it’s found a happy spot. One that will be evident when Ritter comes to The Neptune on March 23rd. It won’t be a man crushed by self pity – it will be a man living up to his dreams of the stage. – (8/10)
Josh Ritter and his Royal City Band perform Saturday, March 23 at the Neptune Theater.