It’s no secret to anyone that has spoken to me in the last 5 years that I love Josh Ritter. Ever since being introduced to the Idaho troubadour by my friend Lisa he’s been one artist that stays in heavy rotation on my music playlists. He’s new and relevant and yet every time I play him around my Dad he asks if he’s listening to various artist from years past (Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan).
I’ve seen him in concert twice and I’m going to catch him again this weekend. So to commemorate that I’m going to give you my list of my favorite Josh Ritter songs. I had a tough time making this list having to leave off dozens of great songs and if you ask me tomorrow I may give you 10 different songs. I especially had trouble ordering the top three but life’s tough and I did it anyways.
So, regardless of whether if this is the first time you’re hearing these songs or they’re old favorites I hope that they mean something to you like the mean to me.
A song about love that is destined to fail. It’s delicate melody joyously celebrates the good times about first loves and the world that tries to crush our dreams.
9. Golden Age of Radio
Josh channels the Boss on this song about a blue collar character who is suddenly questioning everything he has believed.
8. To the Dogs or Whoever
A song full of sprawling references and imagery that I think gets more fun and more beautiful with every listen. A boss once commented it that it sounded like Bob Dylan on speed.
7. The Curse
Only Josh would write a waltz about the star-crossed love of a mummy and the paleontologist who discovers his tomb. And rather than make it silly he plays it completely straight. It breaks my heart every time. (You know in a totally manly sort of way.)
Begins with the greatest pick-up line of all time. Continues to be one of his staples. Probably also remains his most radio friendly song.
I like to think that this is a ballad a husband sings for his wife about making it through the ups and downs of the world with someone you love.
This is a song that might not have been on my list a year ago. But the story of an absent father and it’s dark view of human nature has taken hold in me like a weed to a rose. One of those songs that can be opened up live and could go on for an hour and a half or played succinctly in 3 minutes.
3. Girl in The War
A song that always grabs me. He flips the scripts on war and our classic perception of it. Simply amazing.
2. The Temptation of Adam
Josh isn’t just a songwriter he’s a storyteller. And this song about a pacifist who considers starting nuclear war just so he doesn’t have to be without the girl he’s fallen in love with may be my favorite story he’s ever told. And more often than not it’s probably the song I’ll go to first when introducing someone to Josh Ritter. That’s unless I think they can handle Josh’s best song ever…
1. Thin Blue Flame
The first Josh Ritter song I ever heard. Instantly it blew my socks off. I’m not going to lie, this is a difficult song. A sprawling 10 minutes stream of consciousness piece of sonic art that will immediately have you reaching for the lyrics. Referencing everything from Shakespeare to Laurel and Hardy. Part post-apocalyptic dream, part hope for humanity. Building to a glorious crescendo the song asks many hard questions about human existence. And in the end it offers an optimistic view of the world in spite of all the pessimism the world presents us with. It contains everything that I love about Josh. I simply can’t do it justice in a paragraph and maybe not even in a 100 pages. But here you go!
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