The Beast In Its Tracks
Years of positive reviews and the respect of his fellow musicians have lifted Josh Ritter near the top of the pile of American male singer/songwriters. His marriage to fellow respected singer/songwriter Dawn Landes in 2009 was supposed to be the cherry on top. But in less than two years the marriage fell apart, and this is the subject of Ritter's sixth studio album. The title of The Beast in Its Tracks, of course, bears a striking resemblance to Bob Dylan's alleged "divorce album," Blood on the Tracks. Ritter's similarity to The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle—in vocal, lyrical, and musical approach—on the album's first single, "Joy to You Baby," is outright weird, as if Ritter has somehow taken on another singer/songwriter's persona. But it's just one diversion on an album filled with changing vibes and personalities, all recorded in a heady rush at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, Maine, with longtime producer/keyboardist Sam Kassirer. Among the highlights are a John Lennon–style echo for "Hopeful," a direct to lo-fi boombox demo for "Third Arm," and a tight small-band jam for the anger of "New Lover."