Manic Productions Presents
Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band, The Low Anthem
300 York St.
New Haven, CT, 06511
This event is all ages
Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band
The Beast In Its Tracks, the new album from renowned singer-songwriter Josh Ritter, was released on March 5 on Pytheas Recordings. Of the record, Ritter says, "In the year after my marriage ended, I realized that I had more new songs than I'd ever had at one time. Far from the grand, sweeping feel of the songs on So Runs the World Away, these new songs felt like rocks in the shoe, hard little nuggets of whatever they were, be it spite, remorse, or happiness."
Recorded during 2011-2012 at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, Maine, The Beast In Its Tracks continues Ritter's longtime collaboration with producer and keyboard player Sam Kassirer. As Josh describes, "I hadn't composed this stuff, I'd scrawled it down, just trying to keep ahead of the heartbreak. They needed to be recorded like that. We needed to work fast, make decisions quickly, keep the songs as spare as they could be kept, and above all never allow ourselves to blunt the sharp edges. Some of the songs were mean or evil. So be it."
The new album follows Ritter's 2010 release, So Runs The World Away, of which Bob Boilen from NPR Music declared, "I've come to expect good records from him...but this one took my breath away," while the Boston Globe praised, "quite sensational…marks the finest music he has made."
In 2011, Ritter made his debut as a published author with his New York Times Best-selling novel, Bright's Passage (Dial Press/Random House). Of the work, Stephen King writes in The New York Times Book Review, "Shines with a compressed lyricism that recalls Ray Bradbury in his prime . . . This is the work of a gifted novelist."
The Low Anthem
From its hand silkscreened cover art to its meticulously crafted songs, The Low Anthem offers work meant to be held, savored, contemplated, and occasionally stomped along to. The Providence, RI, trio's Nonesuch debut offers a distinctly human touch in an era of instant uploading and ephemeral expression. The mood of Oh My God, Charlie Darwin is melancholic from the start—quiet, intimate, full of longing, and often hauntingly beautiful. In its lyrics, a dog-eat-dog society is nearing collapse and relationships are bruised, broken, or irretrievably lost. Yet in their tenor there is a pencil shaving of hope.
The Low Anthem combines folk and blues arrangements with the elegance of chamber music and the fervor of gospel. Much of Oh My God is hushed and hymn-like, but the trio throws a clamorous curve with raw, stomp-and-holler tracks like "The Horizon Is a Beltway" and its version of "Home I'll Never Be," a Jack Kerouac song passed via Tom Waits. Members Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowsky, and Jocie Adams—all students of classical composition—bring a wide range of individual interests to the band. Prystowsky is a scholar of baseball, jazz, and American history. Adams, a classical composer and technical wizard, spent summers working an infrared spectrometer at NASA. And Miller, principle songwriter, painter, and general ruminator, can indeed expound upon the theories of Charles Darwin. They have a formidable work ethic, along with the ability to laugh at their maniacal intensity.
On stage and in its recordings, the trio uses a variety of unusual instrumentation—by its own count, the band mates took turns playing 27 different instruments on Oh My God—that gives its songs, at times, an otherworldly quality. For example, Miller and Prystowsky refurbished a World War I pump organ that had been dragged by chaplains into the battlefield and is now part of The Low Anthem's arsenal of instruments. Adams plays the crotales, a rack of bronze, cymbal-like discs often used with mallets as a percussion instrument. Adams, however, wields a bow to elicit feedback-like sounds. Some critics have called The Low Anthem's sound Americana, but what the group has really done is to conjure a varied and elusive sound of its own.
Massachusetts natives Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri have been making things together since 1999, when they engaged in horrendously reckless swordplay during a high school production of "My Favorite Year." From 2003 to 2008 they conspired to produce a series of strange and little-seen movies while Josh attended college in Western Massachusetts and Raky gigged around NYC with a number of different bands. During this period of geographical separation they began trading home recordings of their original songs via email and formulating vague and grandiose plans to start a band together some day.
You Won't was born in late 2010, when the two friends willfully marooned themselves in the woods of Eastern Massachusetts (for the second and third time, respectively) to record a number of Josh's songs. They emerged like baby bears in the spring of 2011 and spent the next several months touring the east coast and playing regularly in Boston and NYC as music blogs including Spinner, I Guess I'm Floating, and Pretty Much Amazing began to take note of their distinctively melodic musical stylings. Their full-length debut, Skeptic Goodbye, was released on Old Flame Records on February 14, 2012.