It hardly seems like an accident that Josh Ritter affects a slurred cadence reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s distinctive warble on two of the standout tracks on The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. In many ways, the album plays out as a far more effective and far less deliberately post-modern survey of the multiple phases of Dylan’s career than does Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There or its accompanying soundtrack. Moreover, the album’s use of to-the-minute trends in rock production and arrangements (lead single “Rumours” favorably recalls TV on the Radio with its syncopated rhythms and distorted brass section) on what would otherwise be an album of exceptionally well-written folk songs brings Dylan’s trademark style and sound into a modern context. That Ritter, in doing so, has made what is arguably a better record song-for-song than any that Dylan has released this decade isn’t a backhanded compliment.
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