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So Runs the World Away

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Album Review

So Runs the World Away, the fifth studio album from bookish, Idaho-born troubadour Josh Ritter, unfolds like a Flannery O’Connor, Jim Jarmusch, and Mark Twain road trip. Equally steeped in Southern and Midwest Gothic Americana, the son of a pair of neuroscientists has crafted his most unique collection of songs to date, borrowing characters from mythology, literature, and world history and letting them run wild in the increasingly adventurous, neo-traditional folk style that his become his forte over the last decade. The elegiac, slow-burn opener “Change of Time” sets the stage, lamenting “battered hulls and broken hardships/leviathan and lonely” before visiting a 1000-year-old Egyptian pharaoh on the deck of a steamship on his way to New York in “Curses.” The voyage continues by train on “Southern Pacifica,” descends into bluesy, Tom Waits-ian solipsism on “Rattling Locks,” and culminates in So Runs the World Away’s brilliant mid-album centerpiece, "Folk Bloodbath," which pits some of the murder ballad’s biggest names (Louis Collins, Delia, and Stagger Lee) against each other with predictable results. Standout cuts in the second half include the verdant, bouncy “Lark,” the stoic, John Jacob Niles-inspired “See How Man Was Made,” and the spirited, quasi-spiritual/science rocker “Orbital,” resulting in a typically fine batch of new folk standards and a high-water mark for an artist already used to paddling around on oceans too deep and vast for modern cartography.

Biography

Born: 1976 in Moscow, Idaho

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

An American singer/songwriter with a strong voice, a keen wit, and an evocative way with words, Josh Ritter has built a loyal following as one of the leading lights on the contemporary folk scene. Born in Idaho, Ritter bought his first guitar after hearing the Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash classic "The Girl from the North Country." While attending college in Oberlin, Ohio, Ritter got his first taste of the music of Leonard Cohen and Gillian Welch; he instantly fell in love with their songs and dropped...
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So Runs the World Away, Josh Ritter
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