Josh Ritter's latest album, Sermon on the Rocks, was recorded in New Orleans and will arrive on October 16th. We discuss the new single, "Getting Ready to Get Down".
I've just loved everything about this week's rollout of Josh Ritter's new album Sermon on the Rocks. Though the last record had some strong moments, I could never quite get behind the whole "well-adjusted breakup album"-concept. So it's fair to say "Getting Ready to Get Down" blew through my speakers like a breath of fresh air. I love the Ronstadt-influenced country-meets-new-wave production. I love the hurried verses and tangled Biblical illusions. I love the story about a woman's defiance of small-minded religion. Hell, I even loved the stupid title of both the song and album. Ritter's recent NPR interview about the album is equally exciting. In it he mentions that he recorded in New Orleans, that Trina Shoemaker (QOTSA, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris) produces and Matt Barrick formerly of the Walkmen is on drums. Oh, and by the way, he's apparently writing cowboy songs for Bob Weir! Josh Ritter sounds like a man personally and creatively refreshed and it's got me feeling pretty sanguine about the prospects for the rest of Sermon on the Rocks. -- JOHN M. TRYNESKI (9/10)
I know next to nothing about country or alt-country. The weird fetishization for genres that thrive through continued stasis passes over me unnoticed at most turns. So ,there’s perhaps little I can add to what may (?) be a vibrant dialogue on the minor perks and tweaks within this finely tuned set of genre conventions. Josh Ritter does seem to perform well within the script of Springsteen cadences, while tossing in a nod to (really?) Cracker’s “Low”. Did I hear that right? What many mistake for comfort food I always find truly bizarre and this is no exception. This song also holds the honor of being perhaps the only tune I’ve ever heard that’s simultaneously smugly poised against bible folk and smugly poised against those who thumb their nose down at bible folk. And then there’s its liberation credos, its gentle blasphemy, which can be summed up as a ladies “Lean-In” to sexual urges, the only reliable means of autonomy in a world where the decree of the pastor can relocate you off to a bible school in Missouri for four long years. It just so happens to fall in line with the sanctioned vices musty old rock men want out of women too. Sheer coincidence, I’m sure. If she spent four years studying the bible though and the only institutionalized misogyny she found was some foggy notion that she shouldn’t screw whoever she wants, she must have been reading something other than the “King James Version”. -- TIMOTHY GABRIELE (2/10)
After seeing a fine performance of Josh Ritter's at the 2014 Americana Fest in Nashville -- in addition to spending much of 2015 having his excellent 2013 album The Beast in Its Tracks in heavy rotation -- I've been anxious to hear his new material. Every song he played at his solo Americana Fest gig was new, and the crowd ate it all up, myself included. With its rapid-fire and playful vocal delivery, which hearkens back to Ritter's "To the Dogs or Whoever", "Getting Ready to Get Down" is a delightful teaser for what's to come on Sermon on the Rocks. Ritter is as witty as ever with his lyricism ("Dryer than a page of the King James Version" is the definite highlight), and his pop bonafides are getting even stronger, if this tune is any indication. For those who found the sparse confessionals of The Beast in its Tracks too bare in their acoustic arrangements, "Getting Ready to Get Down" will be a welcome return to the songwriting of LPs like 2007's The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. -- BRICE EZELL (7/10)
I’m not sure if I’m willing to accept Josh Ritter’s more sprightly pursuits. The Beast in Its Tracks was charmingly antiquated in its melancholic, folk-induced daze, a style of music he’s always excelled at. Another kind of Ritter I wholly admire is his storytelling side, and I’m not really hearing it on this track, either. Or there is, except that it possesses the kind of insufferable chorus that usurps any meaning found in the song’s verses. “Getting Ready to Get Down” is still spare in its approach, though its double time sing-speak on growing up and being coaxed by divine grace is just too perky and derpy to take seriously to. And those guitars: someone’s been listening to Mark Knopfler. I’ll only “get down” to this track after chugging a couple of Bud Lights, because my senses would be impaired enough to maybe enjoy it. -- JUAN EDGARDO RODRIGUEZ (4/10)
Now, this is just straight refreshing. Taking a mildly more country-oriented take on his arranging this time around, Ritter basically becomes the anti-bro doctrine on this track. He takes every hypocritical stereotype of the country-lovin’ Southern radio scene and challenges it with some sardonically soft-spoken truths in the lieu of the subject matter’s woman of fancy. Furthermore, it’s a danceable Americana jive, all while still tending to forego the typical roundabout fair popularized within the commercial side of the genre over the past few years in typical, appreciated Josh Ritter fashion. I dig it. -- JONATHAN FRAHM (8/10)
Josh's rat-a-tat delivery of the lyrics evokes thoughts of "We Didn’t Start the Fire" sung by a very unhappy Rick Springfield minus the good chorus. A ‘story song' about a young woman rebelling against her bible-belted upbringing, in depth and with great precision it explores themes of phallocentric repression and male fear of female emancipation. Oh hold on, it doesn’t. It’s just banal Americana by numbers, the funniest part of which comes at the end of the accompanying video when after scribbling down all the lyrics to the song in his notebook Josh writes an emphatic coda of “(Rock out!)” and then underlines it. Presumably this is a memo to remind him to leave his pet rock outside at night, or a cryptic political message to Dwayne Johnson because it certainly can’t refer to the track’s limp and entirely rock-free instrumental close. -- PAUL DUFFUS (4/10)
“Getting Ready to Get Down", the first taste from Josh Ritter’s upcoming Sermon on the Rocks album, is a buoyant acoustic-rock gem with a rapid-fire vocal delivery and a melody that sticks in the head. Ritter straddles genres with rock, country and folk influences all evident in his work. His lyrics are razor-sharp, loaded with evocative imagery and memorable lines. The real challenge to the listener will be trying to sing along with this one without getting your tongue tied in knots. -- CHRIS GERARD (8/10)