"New Lover," a song off Josh Ritter's newest album The Beast In Its Tracks (2013), opens with frantically strummed acoustic chords. Ritter's singing is melodic and pure, with only the smallest hint of rough emotion adding immediacy to this crooning address to an ex-lover. It's perhaps the sweetest song ever sung to an ex, the sentiment of which is summarized by the refrain: "I've got a new lover now; I hope you got a lover, too."

That is, until the final lines of the song. Ritter reverses the lyrical tone and repeats: "But if you're sad and you are lonesome and you got nobody true / I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me happy, too."

Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band
Oregon Zoo
Aug 1

The comic turn is a classic move, mastered by the blues greats of the early 20th Century, and the overall song sounds like a forgotten demo from Dylan's Nashville Skyline sessions. That's the way Ritter likes it. His music career, which began in 1999 with the self-produced, self-titled album he recorded at Oberlin College in Ohio, has been marked by tried-and-true folk instrumentation, coupled with hyper literate lyrics (his sixth album title, So Runs the World Away, is a line from Shakespeare's Hamlet) which tug at heart strings and jab at funny bones.

Ritter and his band are touring through the summer. The shows aren't promoting any new releases, but they're sure to include hits off his seven albums, and maybe even a new song if we're lucky.

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