Josh Ritter: Two Different Lenses

Photos by David McClister The narrators that Josh Ritter has created for his new album, Fever Breaks, often find themselves stranded in an unwelcoming wilderness. On the first track, “Ground Don’t Want Me,” a loner outlaw rides his horse through the Ozarks and comes upon a deserted cemetery filled with the men he has killed. He finds he envies them, sleeping beneath the violets, so peaceful and loved.  In “Losing Battles,” the same character drifts “down to Tennessee,” falls in love with “a girl of silver,” tries to settle down but it doesn’t take. In “Old Black Magic,” the storyteller wakes up in the middle of the night, sobbing, convinced that the black “wings of a crow” shadow his every hope. In “A New Man,” the protagonist is “a man without a country or a friend” wrapped “in the rain and whipping wind.” In the “Torch Committee,” the chairman of a Kafkaesque panel of judges pressures a bewildered man in chains to inform on his family and friends. “It’s not something I chose to write about,” Ritter says, “but as I listen to the songs, I hear a feeling of disconnection and a longing to be connected. This record is…

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