What I'm Listening To: More Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter has been keeping me company lately. (I was pretty bummed to learn that he'd be playing at Calvin in the semester that we're in England; but I just saw today that in April he's going to be playing in Leeds, just down the road from York! Sweet.)

In particular, I've been spending time with some of his earlier albums like Animal Years and Hello Starling. And I've been just mesmerized by "Bone of Song," a strange hymn to musical creation through the story of a relic that is also a muse. Unfortunately I can't find anywhere that the song is streamed, but if you can, do listen. The lyrics alone don't do it justice.
Bone of Song
just where it now lies I can no longer say
I found it on a cold and November day
in the roots of a sycamore tree where it had hid so long
in a box made out of myrtle lay the bone of song
the bone of song was a jawbone old and bruised
and worn out in the service of the muse
and along its sides and teeth were written words
I ran my palm along them and I heard

lucky are you who finds me in the wilderness
I am the only unquiet ghost that does not seek rest

the words on the bone of song were close and small
and though their tongues were dead I found I knew them all
in the hieroglyphs of quills and quatrain lines
Osiris—the fall of Troy—Auld Lang Syne
Kathleen Mauvoreen—Magnificat—Your Cheatin’ Heart
the chords of a covenant king singing 'fore the Ark
then I saw on a white space that was left
a blessing written older than the rest
it said

leave me here I care not for wealth or fame
I’ll remember your song – but I’ll forget your name

the words that I sang blew off like the leaves in the wind
and perched like birds in the branches before landing on the bone again
then the bone was quiet it said no more to me
so I wrapped it in the ribbons of a sycamore tree
and as night had come I turned around and headed home
with a lightness in my step and a song in my bones
lucky are you who finds me in the wilderness
I am the only unquiet ghost that does not seek rest

I just love the juxtaposition of the Mary's song and the Hank Williams classic, "Magnificat--Your Cheatin' Heart." It was for just such brokennes that Mary's son broke into the world--and occasioned a song. If Jesus is the Word, perhaps he's also the song whose lyrics are closer to "Your Cheatin' Heart" than the pop diddies that are regularly "Jesu-fied" to make them allegedly "Christian."