Extra! Josh Ritter

FROM RIHANNA TO RITTER
Gabe and I take turns DJing as he drives us back from a day trip to Old Trafford watching Leicester and Man U draw. It was wonderful to see Riad Mahrez up close, and the game featured a surprisingly deft performance by Marouane Fellaini (who would have expected that? Not me). I trawl around my iPhone to find things that I think Gabe’ll like and Dion’s “King of the New York Streets” gets the thumbs up. If you’ve not heard it, rectify immediately – it’s a terrific romp in the sound and style of Garland Jeffreys, or those tracks that Ronnie Spector cut with the E Street Band.

The newer songs that leap out as keepers are Rhianna’s “Desperado”, a sensational slice of noise with Robyn Rihanna Fenty’s wonderfully supple and slurry vocal wrapped around a industrial morass of funkiness, and a couple from Josh Ritter’s latest record. I’ve always been interested by Ritter, while never bothering to investigate much further. In general I find the whole Americana singer-songwriter thing a busted flush, peopled by whiny voices and dull songs, but Ritter is driven and clever, with the same vivid delivery and whipsmart wordplay as, say, the undervalued Steve Forbert (or, maybe, a rockier Lyle Lovett).

“Sermon on the Rocks” sees him and his great Royal City Band expand their sonic palette, alternating between a fearsome wallop and a delicate charm. Favourite on the road home from Manchester was “Getting Ready to Get Down”, a song in the mould of August Darnell’s great “There but for the Grace of God (Go I)”, a rocking tale of parental fears, small town morals and a daughter’s rebellion, spat out like prime Chuck Berry:

“Mama got a look at you and got a little worried/Papa got a look at you and got a little worried,
The pastor got a look and said “Y’all had better hurry/Send her off to a little bible college in Missouri!
And now you come back sayin’ you know a little bit about/every little thing they ever hoped you’d never figure out,

Eve ate the apple ’cause the apple was sweet/What kinda God would ever keep a girl from getting what she needs?”

Each verse has another cracker:
“Four long years studyin’ the Bible/infidels, Jezebels, Salomes and Delilahs…”
“To really be a saint, you gotta really be a virgin/dry as a page in the King James Version…”

“And when you get damned in the popular opinion/it’s just another damn of the damns you’re not giving…”

Powered by a rockabilly/afrobeat/funk guitar line sitting on a big four-on-the-floor and a rootsy Hammond, we put it on repeat and it flies us down the outside lane of the M6 in fine, fine style.

Later, trawling for stuff on Josh, I find the official video, explained here…
“Hey All! A few days after we put out “Getting Ready to Get Down” as a single, my great friend, Doug Rice, discovered an amazing homemade video online. It was a guy in his dance studio teaching the world line-dancing steps to “Get Down”! We contacted Cef, who it turns out is a line-dancing instructor from Idaho, told him how great we thought it was, and next thing you know we had even more footage to work with. We knew this stuff had to be shared. Cef is a great guy and I thank him (and his wonderful class!) wholeheartedly for sharing his pure talent and enthusiasm with me and letting me share it with you…

I also came across this thoughtful video made for PBS News Hour, rather prosaically titled “How does a Singer Songwriter Deal With Self-Doubt On Stage?” I’m digging the threads,  especially the Paul Simenon-like paint-splattered boiler suit that he wears on stage.

Comments

  1. You should definitely investigate further, preferably by seeing Ritter play live. His performances are fuelled by his infectious enthusiasm and inventiveness. And based on a very strong catalogue of songs of course. A guaranteed great show.

  2. John Pidgeon says:

    King Of The New York Streets would come up in conversations about the longest gap between two great songs by any recording artist, but off the top of my head — and without checking the competition — I’d award that accolade to Dr John (1973-2012). John Pidgeon

  3. John Pidgeon says:

    Nothing quite as great as Right Place, Wrong Time or Such A Night, but I thought Locked Down was an impressive return to form. So Big Shot or You Lie maybe. We had Dr John as a Let It Rock cover story (written by Charlie Gillett) in June 1973, which was probably when our publisher, who was more interested in having a full-page ad for Watney’s Red Barrel on the back cover than some New Orleans weirdo on the front, gave up on us making his fortune.

    • I need to check Locked In then, although I feel you’re missing the wonderful “Goin’ Back to New Orleans’ from 1992 which has sensational charts by Scrabble favourite Wardell Quezergue…

      • I have to agree that Dr J’s “Goin’ Back…” Is excellent. A regular on a playlist is “How Come My Dog…”. Wonderfully funny, lovely piano, smashing horns:

        Thanks for Josh Ritter tip off..I like what I’m hearing

      • Yes, that’s a great song, Charlie – as the Doc describes it, “just a funny ass tune, and Wardell did a hell of a nice chart…” Glad JR meets your approval. What I don’t get is why – when someone’s really at the top of their game in a particular area – does anyone bother to listen to the also-rans? But I guess that’s the story through the ages.

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