[Pytheas Recordings; 2012]

No matter how adventurous music becomes, there will always be room for a man and his guitar. “Why,” the first track off Josh Ritter’s forthcoming Bringing in the Darlings EP, is a salute to the permanence of such simplicity.

Across a softly-plucked acoustic guitar, Ritter takes on the role of the eternal optimist, raising rhetorical and seemingly obvious questions about why his subject would do anything less than seek out the positive. Known for detail-driven narratives, this compact track functions more as a bedside lullaby. “Why spend your only life waiting to do what you know you can do?” he poses, tempting no more from his listener than to stop and think about their life’s path. It can be a little frustrating upon deep meditation — for the millions affected by depression and other mental disorders each year, it isn’t just a matter of flipping a switch and reengaging life — but as a baseline sonnet, it lands well even in its undeniable modesty.

Even in the relatively small concentration of two minutes and 47 seconds, Ritter’s spirit and conviction manages to take a straightforward message and bolster its significance. With that, it takes its place alongside many of the great lullabies that have achieved the same.

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Grade: 7/10