Josh Ritter / To The Yet Unknowing World (EP) (Archives, 2011)

Ritter, the 35-year-old troubadour beloved from Idaho to Ireland, hits the road next week, and he’s taking a few boxes of a new tour EP with him. It delivers three outtakes from the So Runs The World Away sessions, two remixes, and a demo. The three “b-sides” are worth the effort to visit his site or your local participating indie.

Talkin’ Galahad Blues

A yarn with both traditional and decidedly modern elements is the norm for Josh, and “Galahad” documents the exchange between Sir Galahad and an angel on guard duty who sees him coming while guarding the Holy Grail. When the angel asks why Galahad wants to go to heaven, the reply involves (in part) Guinnevere and Kenny Rogers and various drugs, and we’ll leave it there since this is a family show.

Fingerpicking and some neat drum echo set this story in gear, but it gets where it’s going because Ritter knows a storytelling trick or two, and because he is as good at extended dialogue as anyone writing today. I suspect this song may make some setlists.

(Photo by KellyDoyle, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The songs get both shorter and progressively less linear from there, and I like that. “Tokyo!” uses a three-note keyboard riff and a fuzzy, pounding feel. The overall effect is fun, from the sense of urgency (“Don’t let the things you remember ever outnumber the things you live for,”) to some playful Godzilla content (“Her brother is the future and her sister is a UFO / Shooting lasers from her eyes, eating bystanders, sinking boats …).

A return to fingerpicking and some misty synth sounds create an appealing, swirly backdrop for “Wild Goose”, which again is almost a minute shorter than the track before it. A fleeting, softspoken wisp of a song, it concludes the three-pack that is as enjoyable as any trio from the album.

Re-Rattling Locks

OK, so the “Josh and Sam” demo of “Lantern” is unremarkable but maybe useful if you keep an “acoustic” playlist. And the Wallpaper remix of “The Remnant” brings its woozy keys and backbeat bass too far to the fore, where the vocals can’t compete. The overall effect is more disorienting than enlightening. The Hesta Prynn remix of “Rattling Locks” hits the right balance with a better (and better integrated) reimagining, and besides, you already got the best stuff at the top, anyway.

Consider the last two as filler, and this is still a solid five-buck bonus to go with the full-length. Ritter showed he had reached a certain folk summit with The Animal Years, then made a splash in a broader pool with The Historical Conquests Of …. These days, he’s mining territory in between that may be less commercial, but pure talent plus the choice to head in that direction make it every bit as interesting.

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