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First Listen: Josh Ritter, 'So Runs The World Away'

Even early in his career, Josh Ritter was embraced in the folk-music world. But by 2001, when he released his second album (Golden Age of Radio), it was clear that the Oberlin-educated, Idaho-born singer-songwriter was looking well beyond the boundaries and limitations of his genre. With each new album, he continues to develop his singular voice; his new record, So Runs the World Away, doesn't defy categorization so much as it creates its own.

Ritter's category lacks a name, but it has a sound, a vision and a sense of poetic determination that puts So Runs the World Away on a level reserved for records such as Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind, Tom Waits' Rain Dogs and Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water. High praise, to be sure.

Speaking of Simon, Ritter recalls the melancholic side of that legendary songwriter in the epic "Another New World," as well as his perky side in "Lark." In the murder ballad "Folk Bloodbath," he imaginatively rewrites Blind Willie McTell's "Delia," while in the anthemic rocker "Lantern," Ritter explores love, risk and emotional safety.

With startling detail, distinctive storytelling, compelling subject matter and astonishing musicianship, Ritter's new album has reset the singer-songwriter bar. So Runs the World Away will be available here for streaming in its entirety until its release on May 4. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.

Copyright 2010 XPN

Bruce Warren is assistant general manager for programming of WXPN in Philadelphia. Besides serving as executive producer of World Café, Warren also contributes to Paste magazine and writes for two blogs: Some Velvet Blog and WXPN's All About The Music Blog.