So Runs The World Away is the latest album from American troubadour Josh Ritter. Originally released back in 2010, it was re-released this year along with the EP Bringing in the Darlings to coincide with his tour with Simone Felice. A beautifully understated record that fits neatly alongside Ritter’s back catalogue.
Ritter has been on my radar off and on for a couple of years now. Though I must admit I hadn’t bought anything of his since 2006’s Girl in War EP. So I was glad to get a chance to hear his new work, as well as rediscover some of the back catalogue. Ritter is one of those songwriters who excels in the writing whimsical folk ballads and beautiful narrative tales. He has a distinctive voice, both narratively speaking and as singer. The kind of songwriter who draws comparisons to the likes of Dylan and Ryan Adams, and in Ritter’s case completely justified.
Looking at the faded images of the paddle steamer that adorns the cover of the album you find yourself conjuring up an impression of what the album might sound like. I know you shouldn’t judge an album by its cover, but sometimes it’s kind of inevitable. There are plenty of songs that fit the image that came to mind, delicate well spun sepia tinged folk narratives. But there are more than a few that don’t necessarily fit the mould. Opening track “Curtains” certainly doesn’t; a jangling guitar intro that would sound more at home alongside some shoegaze.
“The Curse” is an early highlight, a beautiful piano driven track, with an understated vocal, that never really rises above a whisper and is almost Paul Simon-esque in delivery. “Folk Bloodbath” is probably the stand out track of the record. A stirring and striking retelling and compiling of American murder ballads. Filled with vivid imagery and marked by some brilliant vocal work and harmonies, it’s solemn but incredibly listenable. “Lanterns” is a nice little rocker, with some great staccato guitar work throughout; whilst “The Remnant” is a foot stomper of a tracker, with some bluesy distorted vocals and plenty of attitude.
The second disc, the Bringing in the Darlings EP is certainly more understated than the tracks from So Runs The World Away. It’s Ritter’s first recording without his touring group the Royal City band. It’s more stripped back than some of his previous work, with plenty of acoustic guitar and simple and earnest vocals. Recorded in three days in a Brooklyn studio, the EP sits as it’s own body of work, separate, it’s not previewing a new album, and doesn’t really feel like outtakes from his previous work. Though coupled with So Runs The World Away it seems like the perfect accompaniment, providing the listener with another side of Ritter.
Review Score: 8.4 out of 10