The Beast in its Tracks
In the pantheon of breakup records, The Beast in its Tracks is maybe the most kindhearted I know of. Josh Ritter, longtime folk troubadour and Americana aficionado, admits in interviews it took a while to come to a point where he could take the raw material of this record — his own divorce — and turn it into something not bitter or hateful. He says so on the album, too, singing on “New Lover”: “There are things I will not say for the sting of sour notes.”
Beast, his seventh album, doesn’t aim to rehash pain or revel in wrongs. Even at its saddest moments, he wants reconciliation, if not with his former partner than at least with his past. With that surely in mind, he and longtime producer/collaborator Sam Kassirer walked back the expansive take on Ritter’s traditional-based singer/songwriting material, which resulted in 2010’s So Runs the World Away. Here, Ritter and his acoustic are accompanied by a hodgepodge of keyboards, additional guitars and just a few full band tracks, for a decidedly more personal sound.
The overall effect is best summed by “The Appleblossom Rag”, a song where Ritter uses a classic folk structure, bringing his own life to it while dishes clink and light conversation happens in the background. It’s the sound of the space where life is lived, a space where we’re a little broken but trying to be better.