Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Josh Ritter: "Sermon On the Rocks" (album review)

As I age (not so) gracefully, my tastes have shifted from loud, boisterous rock to more thoughtful, catchy, and rootsy music.  That has coincided with the rise of Josh Ritter to near the top of my favorite artists list.

On October 16th Ritter returns with a new studio album, Sermon On the Rocks.

There's a dark cloud that casts a shadow over much of this new record.  It starts with "Birds of the Meadow", which seems like it's signalling Ritter's Tom Waits turn.


A Spanish influence weighs heavily on the gloomy ballad "Seeing Me Around".  It's impossible not to get trapped in the dark spiderweb of "Henrietta, Indiana".

Not everything is morose.  The infectious "Getting Ready To Get Down" is a Song of the Year candidate.  "Where the Night Goes" is a very typical melodic Ritter offering, while "Young Moses" is a modernization of blue collar Americana rock.

Roots is always a heavy influence on Ritter's music, and that's no exception on this record.  The jangle and rock of "A Big Enough Sky" is vintage Ritter.  With "Cumberland", he turns in a hand-clapping, knee-slapping hootenanny.  He goes full-on country for the weeper "My Man On a Horse Is Here".

Once again Ritter has not disappointed.  Sermon On the Rocks is a front-to-back solid record.

Josh Ritter plays The Phoenix in Toronto on February 16th.

Best tracks: "Getting Ready To Get Down", "Cumberland"

Track listing for Sermon On the Rocks:
  • Birds of the Meadow
  • Young Moses
  • Henrietta, Indiana
  • Getting Ready To Get Down
  • Seeing Me Around
  • Where the Night Goes
  • Cumberland
  • Homecoming
  • The Stone
  • A Big Enough Sky
  • Lighthouse Fire
  • My Man On a Horse Is Here
8.0/10

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