Download: Josh Ritter - "Kathleen"
When it comes to music, I'm not that adventurous. The allure of Bjork still evades me and I'm not fond of the sonic explorations that bands like Wilco and Radiohead have pursued. I do, however, know a pretty song when I hear one and Josh Ritter's "Kathleen" is as pretty as they come.
"Kathleen" was the song that introduced me to Ritter four years ago when I heard him perform it on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" while driving away from Ontario Mills Mall. Yup, it made such an impact that I remember where I was when I first heard it. It's a song that makes me wish I was straight so I can find a girl named Kathleen and sing this to her. Whenever I've met a Kathleen, in fact, I've played this song just to let her know how lucky she is to have such a gorgeous song as her namesake. Still, I would much prefer to present this song to the love of my life. Maybe I can meet someone named Franklin and just change the lyric.
In the weeks I've been doing these Songs of the Week I think what I have proven is how much of a lovelorn romantic I am. I don't like the typical "I love you" songs since those seem so unrealistic to me. Instead I prefer sweet painful songs like "Kathleen" that talk about how good it hurts to be so badly in love. Here's a song about driving a girl home from a party; a girl who might not love the guy--yet--but the guy is so heartbreakingly grateful for just the briefest of encounters. Unrequited love is the best! And it's not all mushy, gushy stuff, too. Lyrics such as the following are far too knowing and sensible to be so.
I know you are waiting and I know that it is not for me,
But I'm here and I'm ready and I saved you the passenger seat.
I won't be your last dance, just your last good night.
Every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied.
And just dig Ritter's sly wit when the organ kicks in when he sings the line "a virgin Wurlitzer heart never once had a song."
How about this for a pick-up line: "All the other girls here are stars-you are the Northern Lights." You had me at "all," Josh. You had me at "all."
[Photo from Josh Ritter's MySpace page]