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Josh Ritter’s “Sermon On The Rocks” Reviewed

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As clever as the album title, Sermon On The Rocks, suggests, Josh Ritter is a journeyman folk rocker in the image of, I dunno early Loudon without the sarcasm. A Dylan wannabe who isn’t consistent to do much more than move around his cult following from one album to another.

Josh deserves better and his latest album is fair to very good but not because the good is bad but because the bad is  good. The ones you’d assume will suck,”Henrietta, Indiana””, “Seein’ Me “Round”, “The Stone” -on all three songs he drags the beat to a rumble and emotes too much. It is a problem you might solve by skipping because from an early “Young Moses” -a terrific concept with a great verse that leads to a steeped in strangeness break , Ritter’s Moses is “bound for ecstasy” and then the other shoe drops “Oh Lord they’re gonna get me…”. Then everything drops out and he returns to you the terrific lick.

Other great songs are all over the place, “A Big Enough Sky” is easy going on the road Americana and that guitar which strums itself through the track is a marvel. On “Homecoming” a lovely finger played piano intro leads you like a heavenly choir of one, building you forward, “I feel the a change in the weather, I feel a change in me” and I am thinking of John Hiatt, an intense singer songwriterly conceptual deep thought feel stuff. A great song.

Josh has a deep voice, and he has so much feeling in it that he seems to be always pushing your direction, the songs are so thoughful they keep getting in your way and the closer you listen the greater the reward. Ritter has been around forever, well since 1997, and here is his reward, a thoughtful collection of sermons about his take on

Ritter is out of time of course, and this will probably hang with the rest of his career though it is about as good as a rock album deserves to be, funny, catchy, attractive, opinionated to the point of bloody minded and always honest. A terrific album.

Grade: B+

 

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