The Animal Years
V2 Records 27296-2
Over the course of his two critically acclaimed releases for indie Signature Sounds Records, Golden Age of Radio from 2002 and Hello Starling in 2003, Josh Ritter presented himself as an intelligent and literate songwriter in possession of an emotional streak that hit with a subtle, but staying clout. Each of those recordings were solitary in makeup featuring understated accompaniment allowing Ritter’s voice to dictate the ebb and flow of the song. All the buzz of those two releases helped take Ritter’s career up a couple of notches and with his move to V2 Records, the one time Providence-based artist enters the major label ranks for the first time counting among his labelmates the likes of Gang Of Four, Grandaddy, Mercury Rev, Ray Davies and The White Stripes. That diversity alone makes the addition of Ritter to the V2 camp a good fit. The newly released longplayer The Animal Years is the name of Ritter’s V2 debut and compared to the solitariness of those prior indie platters, it is a more polished and robust recording. Whereas such words may scare away fans of the early works, to these ears the extra “touches” of the 11 tracks comprising The Animal Years are nothing but totally tasteful additions to the Ritter listening experience. Examples include the understated Hammond organ and quiet brushwork backdropping the striking “Monster Ballads” and the sprawling “Thin Blue Flame” which finds Ritter in stream-of-consciousness sermon mode and slowly builds to a crescendo of electric guitar, piano, drums and voice over the course of its nine-plus minutes. Smarts are all over these songs that see Ritter draw from the written works of the likes of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain and going as far as using religious figures to speak his mind – an argument between apostles Peter and Paul is the framework for the opening track “Girl in the War” about the divide in our own land over the war in Iraq. Produced by Brian Dreck whose previous work includes albums by the likes of Modest Mouse and Iron & Wine, The Animal Years is a record which strikes with as much clout as those prior albums. It is a record that clearly proves all the buzz was warranted. No doubt we’ll be talking about this one at year’s end. Highly recommended. (V2 Records, 14 E. 4th Street, New York, NY10012, or www.v2records.com. Check out Josh Ritter’s web site at www.joshritter.com.)
Josh Ritter appears at the Narrows center For the Arts on Friday, April 28. The band Hem opens. The Narrows is located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, MA. Call 508-324-1926 or check the Center’s web site at www.ncfta.org.
En este momento
Bloodshot Records BS-128
With the signing of Brooklyn-based band Cordero, Bloodshot Records for the first time adds a little worldly seasoning to its artists ranks. A four-piece that draws as much from the Hispanic roots of its founder as it does the rootsy side of rock, an aromatic and equal dose of garage sounds and Rock en Español is the plain and simple on the band’s debut release for the label titled En este momento. Fronted by the husband-wife team of Chris Verene (The Rock*A*Teens) and Ani Cordero (Man or Astroman?, Pistolera) (with Ani handling most all the vocals over the 11 tracks), En este momento is actually the band’s fourth album since it’s formation in 1999. It follows three previous albums released for Daemon Records which is headed by Amy Ray of Indigo Girls’ fame. Begun in Tucson and taking a cue from other such indie purveyors of the Southwestern rock sound as Calexico and stretching it a bit, Giant Sand, while also borrowing some musicians from those groups, Ani Cordero adopted her family name as her new band’s handle and got things rolling. Within a year she relocated to New York City and along with husband Verene reformed the band. Since the move to Brooklyn, Cordero has garnered some prime opening slots on touring schedules of groups ranging from Los Lobos to Ozomatli. Right out of the shoot with the leadoff track “En este momento”, about the only thing missing is a rose clenched between Ms. Cordero’s teeth. The terrific horn work of Omar Little throughout fits the song menu like a glove. Flip-flopping between songs sung in Spanish and those in English, En este momento is an album where the Southwestern blend can at times be raucous and at others downright romantic and sexy. No doubt the hope with the move to the much better distributed Bloodshot Records is to branch Cordero’s music out even further. The highly spiced En este momento is certainly a recording worthy of plenty more ears, especially those who like their music with a Latino twist. Towards that end, the album comes up all aces. (Bloodshot Records, 3039 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL 60618, or www.bloodshotrecords.com)
Cordero performs at Great Scott Boston on Thursday, May 18. Also on the bill are Koufax and Drag the River. Great Scott is located at 1222 Commonwealth Ave (corner of Harvard and Commonwealth) in Allston. Check the club’s web site at www.greatscottboston.com for further information.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at email@example.com.)