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Josh Ritter - Girl In The War

Josh Ritter, Girl In The War

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JOSH Ritter looks to complete 2006 in style with the release of his mini-album Girl In The War, a beautiful collection of tracks that are partially taken from his Animal Years long-player.

Headed by title track Girl In The War, which also opens Animal Years, this collection of songs is acoustically-based and vaguely reminiscent of the style of Simon & Garfunkel. It washes over you in supremely laidback fashion and has plenty to say about the current state of the world.

Girl In The War, for instance, is a haunting yet passionate track that’s wrapped around some truly enchanting instrumentation. The song is designed to represent Ritter’s commentary on the situation in Iraq and includes such telling lines as: “If they can’t find a way to help her, they can go to hell.” And: “Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire.”

As hard-hitting as such sentiments are, however, the strong melodies blow you away and mark the artist at his absolute best – it’s good to be reminded of such quality songwriting, particularly as the events that inspired it haven’t gone away. For good measure, there’s even an acoustic demo version to complete the listen.

In between, there’s five tracks of absolute quality to enjoy. Peter Killed The Dragon, in particular, stands out as a powerfully reflective acoustic ballad that contains some thought-provoking lyrics. Ritter’s delivery is low-key yet charming, providing a soothing accompaniment to the gentle guitar licks.

Harbortown is similarly enchanting, a reflective love song about the memory of a favourite place that conjures images of moonlit nights and sunsets across the bay. It’s great just to kick back to and drift away with on its rich journey, perhaps carrying the image of the one you love with you.

And an early version of Monster Ballads is every bit as impressive as it is on Animal Years – the piano chords that run throughout it providing just as magical a presence.

Some may query the point of a mini-album such as this but fans of Ritter’s songwriting brilliance and his passionate, yet subtle delivery can’t fail to be impressed. It’s a richly rewarding listening experience that brings the year to a wonderful finale for this under-rated artist.

Track listing:

  1. Girl In The War
  2. Blame It On The Tetons
  3. Harbortown
  4. Peter Killed The Dragon
  5. Monster Ballads [Early Version]
  6. In The Dark [Acoustic Demo]
  7. Girl In The War [Acoustic Demo]