After 50 years in the biz, songwriter Chris Smither is the subject of a brand new tribute album, Link of Chain. Josh Ritter’s respectful cover of “Rosalie” is just one of 15 tracks that salute the esteemed songwriter, who will turn 70 in November.
“Like many of my peers, I’ve spent time with Smither’s catalog, and the recording of ‘Rosalie’ stood out for its rough-hewn production and world-weary delivery. Rather than jumping out of the stereo speakers, it pulled me in,” Ritter tells CMT Edge.
Ritter recorded his rendition of “Rosalie” at a soundcheck in Dublin last December, and upon first listen, it seems to be a pleasant, gentle number. But upon another spin, you may hear another layer – as it should be with such a masterful songwriter whose style typically leans toward the blues.
“I don’t find the song at all gentle,” Ritter states. “This is a fragmentary story of a difficult and sometimes evil man. The narrator is older and looking back on a life that may lie behind him but will not release him. It is a song for a campfire, but is confessional, not communal, mournful rather than melodramatic.”
Bonnie Raitt also appears on the project, submitting a live version of “Love Me Like a Man,” which may be Smither’s best-known composition. (A longtime champion, Raitt has called Smither “my Eric Clapton.”) Artists ranging from Dave Alvin to Loudon Wainwright III contribute as well.
Ritter says he captured a live take of “Rosalie” in homage to Smither’s presentation in concert. By the way, that’s Zack Hickman and Josh Kaufman on harmonies.
“I wanted the vibe of the recording to be different in musical arrangement, but I wanted the living, breathing side of ‘Rosalie’ to reflect Smithers’ own live delivery of the song,” Ritter notes. “A lot can come through that is real when we stop trying to be precise.”
Look for Link of Chain: A Songwriters Tribute to Chris Smither on Tuesday (Sept. 30), and enjoy Josh Ritter’s thoughtful interpretation of “Rosalie.”