posted on October 01, 2007 15:18
Review Snapshot: He may be a shining light in an overcrowded Irish singer-songwriter scene, but this album finds Josh Ritter failing to take the leap forward that his fans might have hoped for. Though there are certainly enough moments to suggest that he may make a record to deserve the increased attention he is receiving in the US, too many average songs ensure that this record is not it.
The Cluas Verdict? 5.5 out of 10
The last couple of years have been a series of ups and downs for Idaho native Josh Ritter. His last album, The Animal Years, which saw him tackle the political situation in the US, moved him further up the ranks in the Irish singer-songwriter scene into which he has been adopted, as well as coming to the attention of the likes of Bruce Springsteen. Unfortunately, the very night he performed on the Letterman Show to promote that album his label, V2, collapsed, leaving him to evaluate his next move.
The Historical Conquests Of finds Ritter caught between reflective ballads and late night bar stompers, all of them emitting a whiff of the kind of Americana that's eulogised more often than is strictly necessary by Uncut magazine. Simply put, this record won't see him breaking out into the mainstream. He may have fans of the calibre of The Boss, but this album would suggest that he has a long road to travel before he can feel like an equal in his company. The problem is that whatever talent Ritter may possess is spread far too thinly over the course of 14 tracks.
There are certainly positives to be taken; 'Wait For Love' is a dreamlike acoustic number with lovely harmonies and 'Real Long Distance' sees a reasonable attempt at the kind of 70s piano rocker that Elton John patented. On 'Temptation Of Adam', meanwhile, he apes Jeff Tweedy effectively.
The real ace in the pack, though, is 'Right Moves'. Here Josh achieves the level of quality that could see him go mainstream, possessing as it does a huge AOR chorus that the Eagles managed on a regular basis. The quality of this song, however, highlights the mundanity of the material on offer elsewhere. The majority of the remainder of the record fails to rise above the mediocre. Opener 'To The Dogs' is very dull, 'Rumors' and 'Minds Eye' are instantly forgettable, while 'Open Doors' is the real nadir, a repetitive dirge which goes absolutely nowhere.
So, where to next for Josh Ritter? No doubt he will still be seen as a major player on the Irish scene, playing sold out shows at Vicar Street till kingdom come ( which is no bad thing!), but if he really wants to move beyond the confines of this isle and become better known in his own homeland then Josh needs to seperate the wheat from the chaff, focus his muse and become far more consistent on future releases.
To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.