Springsteen and Ritter: Something Good (finally) About America

on Apr 25 in Essays & Reviews by

A bit of happy flew into my life this week in the form of the new Josh Ritter album, Animal Years, and the new Bruce Springsteen album of Pete Seeger and Seeger-related tunes, We Shall Overcome.

In his, Springsteen is working with an old-timey band with New Orelans style horns, which in my mind, is a better backup band for a grown up than the E Street guys. Not that I didn’t enjoy the ESB the first couple hundred thousand times I heard them, but honestly, I’m a little tired of them.

Josh Ritter is a mystery. His first album, Golden Age of Radio is, dare I say, a masterpiece. Yet it’s really simple, unpretentious, has nothing incredible instrumentally going on, and is lyrically straightforward. He’s a singer-songwriter, but he somehow gets past cliche and winds up in the timeless bin. His second album is pretty damn good too. So far, I like this new one. A Girl in the War is another one of his timeless tunes that just digs in and haunts you. I could easily live without “Thin Blue Flame” a really long rant over two chords, but for the rest of the album, I forgive this.

Ritter grew up in Idaho or something. He thinks American, he sings American, I’ve seen him on stage — he can’t dance for shit — and he’s writing classic American tunes.

Springsteen came through John Hammond’s door (Hammond was a musicologist/CBS records exec who pretty much discovered jazz, Bob Dylan, and many other seminal African American musical artists). That Springsteen is doing Pete Seeger, a guy who is as authentic as a 1960s Broadside in a communist bookstore, makes me actually feel nostalgic. The title track, Mr. Froggie Went A-Courtin’, Old Dan Tucker, John Henry, and Shenandoah, one of the most beautiful American songs ever written, he delivers really really well.

I was beginning to lose hope that it would happen, but I found something other than local food and crafts to celebrate about being an American.

One last good thing–the fact that I could get and listen to Springsteen’s album on my ipod the day it’s released without driving anywhere for $11 (which is probably $1.50 in 1968 dollars, after adjustment for inflation) might actually be an example of technology making life better.

One Comment

  • Matt says:

    Couln’t agree more about Josh Ritter and “Girl in the War.” I was pretty blown away when i hear the song and I’ve had it on repeat since. Nice to see that he’s starting to get some recognition!