Josh Ritter — The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)

By naming his latest album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, the titular folk singer displays a level of bravado and macho posturing that serves as an ironic contrast to the lyrical content of his songs. His lyrics reflect an uncertainty, as he wonders on the track “Right Moves”– “Am I making all the right moves, am I singing you the right blues? Is there a chance that I could call you just to see how you are doing?”

The characters populating his songs are lonely, and their loneliness leads them to desperation. For instance, the hero in “The Temptation of Adam” is a soldier in a nuclear missile silo who ponders turning the key that will end the world so he might die before his relationship can end. Ritter manages to express loneliness and frustration without descending into self-loathing and despairing misery. Rather, his songs are energetic and pounding, from the driving chorus of the opener (“To the Dogs or Whoever,” which finds Ritter utilizing historical and literary situations as a backdrop for his expression of love) to the wistful lines of the closing track: “And she’ll know me by the sound of my hoping, singing don’t let me into this year with an empty heart.”

Josh Ritter manages to pull off the posture of a man in full possession of his dignity, opening his heart so that the world can feel the aching sweetness of being in love.

-Nate Campbell

Listen on Myspace 

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