Perhaps because he caught his childhood love of music at least in part from Nashville Skyline, Josh Ritter has been subjected to Bob Dylan comparisons for most of his career. Not that those comparisons have been unwarranted; Ritter’s Folk constructions on his first five albums over the past 10 years, whether electric or acoustic, and his lyrical cadence have been more than a little reminiscent of Hibbing’s favorite son.
On his sixth album, So Runs the World Away, Ritter expands his palette in every conceivable direction. His Dylanesque qualities peek through on occasion (“Orbital”), as does his equally longstanding admiration of Johnny Cash (“Folk Bloodbath”), but Ritter’s Leonard Cohen references come to the forefront on World, particularly when he finds a lovely, melancholy melody and repeats it hypnotically (“The Curse,” “Another New World,” “See How Man Was Made”).
Ritter also touches on the exquisite Pop songcraft of Paul Simon (“Lock”), the atmospheric delicacy and passionate power of Jeff Buckley (“Change of Time,” “The Remnant”) and the dark reflective nature of Nick Cave (“Rattling Locks”), all of it channeled through Ritter’s contemporarily colored Folk prism.
Elsewhere, “Southern Pacifica” has the gently swaying rhythm of a Clem Snide ballad, “Lantern” pulses with the Folk/Rock potential of a Nils Lofgren/Bruce Springsteen collaboration and the seven-minute epic “Another New World” combines all of Ritter’s musical gifts in a modern sea shanty about old exploration as guided by Brian Eno.
Like any great chef, Josh Ritter isn’t defined by the ingredients he uses, but what he creates with them in his own unique kitchen.