Josh Ritter’s Sermon

If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know I’ve been on an extremely long journey the last few years, and Josh Ritter’s music has been a constant companion and soundtrack the whole time. Over the last week I’ve been thoroughly engrossed in his latest, the phenomenal, literate, fun Sermon On The Rocks, and was even lucky enough to catch him and his band with the Boulder Philharmonic this last weekend. I have a lot of words. I have a lot of feelings. They aren’t in order, but they are what I have kicking around my brain.

There are words about words and phrases, about those ones that cut deep or trigger vibrantly or lead to extended pondering or capture feelings so simply and perfectly it seems unfair. There are words about a man 8 albums and hundreds (thousands, probably) of shows in that still comes off as hungry and invested and willing to push himself to try this whole music making thing in different ways. There are thoughts about influences, about Petty and Simon and Springsteen, about how they are always there in Ritter’s writing but how the songs are always his, not pale imitations of theirs. And then there are are thoughts about how this feels like the proper follow-up to Historical Conquests, about how Sermon picks up where that left off, as though Ritter has dealt with those personal life demons that take over when you go through what he went through and he’s emerging happier, more content and ready to start moving his own (songwriting) story forward.

There are words and feelings and thoughts about how all of this applies to me and my life. There are words about life and salvaging things that used to matter in that old life and making them mean something in your new life. There are words about ghost ships carrying other lives we no longer live and all the memories and jokes and feelings and music that can and should only mean something on that ghost ship, and there are words about how sometimes you can find new life in a new love for those things you thought you lost forever. There are words about how long a year is, and how much can change in that time, about how little it all makes sense when you think hard about, and about how you wouldn’t have it any other way. There are words about love and personal wars and distance and a girl rescuing you and hearing old songs in new ways when holding her hand. There are words about new cities and new jobs and new homes and a new normal that makes you feel more alive than you ever have before, and how one man’s music has soundtracked it all, and how this new record of his will fit right in, playing in the background as your story pushes forward.

There are a lot of words. There are a lot of feelings.

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