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Josh Ritter 

Our critics' picks in new releases

Josh Ritter is one of those old-soul young guys that are keeping the folk and rustic-rock train rolling in this post-postpunk world. Or maybe, as the front cover of Golden Age of Radio suggests, his preferred mode of travel is by bus. For sure, Ritter's songs sound like they were inspired by a fistful of Greyhound tickets, a blue-highways road atlas, and a transistor radio tuned to 1972 (that's the year, not the AM station). He's got the road-weary voice and the way with images ("West of her there's another place/Sun shines soft on another face") to back it up. The mood is mostly hushed and highway-hypnotic, so much so that when Ritter and his band move from a true whisper to a stage whisper on the rootsy and catchy "Me & Jiggs"--or the equally driving title track--it's as if he's shouting.

The overall result recalls Richard Buckner at his leanest, Will Oldham at his most accessible, and, as another review proffered, Ryan Adams at his least bratty. There are also echoes of Nick Drake on the pastoral "You've Got the Moon," even though Ritter was still three years from signing on when Drake signed off. And when, on the lovely, accordion-nudged "Lawrence, KS," Ritter keeps returning to the line "I can't leave this world behind," I can't help but think how Drake chose to do otherwise. But I don't want to rely too much on comparisons because Ritter creates a young lion's share of original moments--an impressive accomplishment when you're traveling where so many have gone before.

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