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Thin Blue Flame by Josh Ritter

Illustration: On Stage
Great Performances

I first became a fan of Oakland A's baseball shortly after arriving in the US in August 1973. That October, the team won the second of its three successive World Series championships.

Fast forward to 2006. Beginning that year, A's games were broadcast locally on KYCY. As a result, I discovered KYOU open source radio. After the game broadcast is over, I sometimes stayed tuned to listen to the music.

This was a welcome change from 2005, when A's games were broadcast on a right-wing religious station whose announcers would actually apologize for having to interrupt their interminably boring call-in format to accommodate the A's broadcasts. Sometimes I used to stay tuned for a while when their regular programming resumed after a game, but I soon discovered that it was hard to listen for long without wanting to call in and tell the host (as politely as possible -- which would have been tough for me to pull off, if I had actually tried) that I disagreed with him. It's not easy to tell someone what a narrow-minded and bigoted nitwit he is without seeming to be impolite, no matter how true it is. So I usually took the easier path and switched off -- an approach I also adopt for dealing with Nancy Grace -- who seems to have never met a defendant, or even a suspect, who she does not hate -- just to avoid bursting too many blood vessels. I usually confine my reaction to one simple scream of "turn her off" as I lunge for the remote control.

Anyway, back to the point. On April 29, 2006 an A's game in KC was rained out -- a good result for us considering that we were losing 6-1 in the third inning at the time, after Esteban Loaiza had given up 5 runs in the first inning. Even a genius like Billy Beane makes mistakes, and signing Loaiza was one of the worst.

So when I went back downstairs, the station was playing music. That's how I happened to hear a segment of the Paste Magazine Culture Club, which was broadcasting this podcast of Josh Ritter playing songs from his CD The Animal Years.

The Wikipedia entry for Josh Ritter says that his style is in the tradition of folk music and ballads. He is influenced by the lyrics of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen. That exactly sums up my own reactions when I heard his song, Thin Blue Flame [lyrics] -- particularly the comparisons with Dylan and Springsteen.

I had never heard Josh Ritter before, but this music was so good it actually prevented me from continuing to play Neil Young's CD Living with War, which was released the same week and which I would surely have continued to play non-stop for another 24 hours otherwise. This alone proves something about its quality!

The entire album is excellent, but Thin Blue Flame is a truly memorable climax. The lyrics would probably be considered subversive (in other words, a bit too difficult to fathom) by the dimwit hosts on the A's former radio station. But if it doesn't make you think about the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, nothing will.

Maybe you have already heard this music -- if not, check it out!

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Posted on Monday, February 9, 2009 at 12:01AM by Registered CommenterChris Loosley in | CommentsPost a Comment | References7 References

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