Josh Ritter, Sermon On The Rocks (2014)
While all of his albums have highlights, Sermon on the Rocks is among his more consistent and entertaining from start to finish, injecting enough catchy hooks among the ballads to keep it moving at a decent clip. The main selling point is "Getting Ready To Get Down," one of my favorite songs by any artist from recent years, a relentlessly jaunty number about a rebellious girl from a religious family that earns a joyful catharsis upon its final "If you wanna see a miracle watch me get down." It's like Kevin Bacon's Footloose compressed into three minutes.
But there are plenty of other great tunes as well. I'm partial to the more upbeat tracks, particularly "Where The Night Goes," which sounds like a great lost Bob Seger song that would play every couple hours on 70s classic rock radio, and the rollicking "Cumberland," which, like several songs, channels the songwriting of Paul Simon, but pretty much everything here is compelling.
As the title suggests, there's a theme of religious fervor and Southern-fried Americana that pervades the album, like a timeless gospel album adapted for my post-modern secular ears. But it manages to work both as an immersive lyrical experience and as the laid-back accompaniment for a long road trip.
Here's the exuberant "Getting Ready To Get Down," complete with lyrics for fast readers:
And here's a live take on "Where The Night Goes":
Buy it on Amazon.