Josh Ritter - Wind and gravel roads

Josh Ritter is one of the best lyricists - one of the best writers - currently telling stories. Mostly he does so with a guitar, and maybe a whole band behind him, but he's also done so in a novel. I've loved his work for a decade.

The first time I heard him was when I lived on the border of Kentucky and Indiana, and worked at a Blockbuster Video. I was trading music recommendations with a coworker, and I talked about loving Josh Rouse. My coworker said, "You'll probably like Josh Ritter then." And I did. At first he was someone I'd listen to in between playing Josh Rouse, Bruce Springsteen, and early Tom Waits stuff. At that point there were maybe three Ritter albums. I was a huge fan of the song Me & Jiggs, which has a bouncing rhythm behind a story about having good times, and how they are all too finite. This post could easily turn into a Josh Ritter lyric post, because I love so many of them, but I'll stick to just this line (before the whole song shows up): In Me & Jiggs he says "Lyin' on your back as the sun goes down, you know it's perfect 'cause you gotta' leave." It makes me smile and nod.


I finally got to see him in concert on May 6th. It was an acoustic show, just him and Zack Hickman. Caitlin Canty opened, and you need to check her stuff out. Her voice is beautiful, and her lyrics are visually powerful and expressive.  

I was in the first row, behind some reserved tables. Josh Ritter opened the show with Idaho, which damn near knocked me on my ass. I knew every lyric already, I'd heard the song probably hundreds of times (truly), but hearing him sing them that night was different. I was inside the song like never before. Here are those lyrics.

All that love all those mistakes
what else can a poor man make?
but I gave up a life of crime
I gave it to a friend of mine
The only ghost I'm haunted by
I hear her howling down below
Idaho Idaho 
Wolves oh wolves oh can't you see
ain't no wolf can sing like me
and if it could then I suppose
that he belongs in Idaho
packs of dogs and cigarettes
for those who ain't done packing yet
my clothes are packed and I wanna' go
Idaho Idaho 
I'm out at sea for seven years
I got your letter in Tangier
I thought that I'd been on a boat
till that single word you wrote
the single word it landlocked me
turned the mast to cedar trees
and the wind to gravel roads
Idaho Idaho
turned the wind to gravel roads
Idaho Idaho