By David Werther.
Josh Ritter, So Runs the World Away (Pytheas, 2010)
Josh Ritter takes his title from Shakespeare. After his play comes to a premature end, Hamlet exclaims:
Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play.
For some must watch while some must sleep.
So runs the world away. (Hamlet, Act Three, Scene Two)
As if he were staging a play himself, Ritter opens his CD with the instrumental "Curtains." And, apropos of "some must watch while some must sleep," dreams are one of Ritter's themes. His second song, "Change of Time," begins with "I had a dream last night," and his final selection, "Long Shadows," includes the refrain, "I'm not afraid of the dark/When the sun goes down/And the dreams grow teeth."
In interviews, Ritter has spoken about battling writer's block and his breakthrough when he woke up with the makings of "The Curse" in his head. If writer's block is the absence of originality, then "The Curse" is the definitive writer's breakthrough. If a love affair between a Victorian archaeologist and a mummy come back to life, written as a waltz, does not count for originality, nothing does. (For the song and video go to: http://www.npr.org/blogs/allsongs/2010/05/27/127220892/josh-ritter-video-premiere)
In reflecting on his writing, Ritter recalls a line from Flannery O'Connor, "when I am writing I am grinning like a Cheshire cat." In this collection of oft-disturbing musical short stories, Ritter stands on the shoulders of that literary giant. This strong writing bodes well for his forthcoming novel.