Recently re-released in a 2CD edition paired with brand new six-track EP Bringing In The Darlings, 2010’s So The World Runs Away still proves that someone needs to funnel a bottle of Johnny Walker down Josh Ritter’s throat. Or break his heart and stomp on it with some shiny high heels. Or at least just ruffle his hair.

Josh Ritter knows folk music – maybe too well. He majored in ‘American History Through Narrative Folk Music’ before he attended the Schoolof Scottish Folk Studies. His education show throughout, with a nod to Paul Simon here, a dash of Johnny Cash there.

Although he shows a diverse range of styles, the songs are largely flat, passionless, and stiff. ‘Southern Pacifica’, a story of the road, feels like it was written in an air-conditioned carriage rather than with a face to the dusty wind. The guitar is clean, the drums are neat, and the phrasing is unadventurous. It’s the same bland case with ‘Rattling Locks’, Ritter’s shot at tormented gritty blues.

What we get is some watered-down Black Keys or Tom Waits; with some roiled drum fills and a few bars of distorted guitar, but it’s just a little too neat and prescribed. There’s no overspill, none of the rawness that makes real blues believable.

The album would be largely forgettable if not for two redeeming ballads, which show Ritter does indeed possess a real talent for extraordinary storytelling. ‘AnotherNew World’ narrates the story of a stranded explorer moored in snow, who must sacrifice his only companion – his beloved ship – to keep himself alive.

Then there’s the simple piano waltz, ‘The Curse’, a love story between an Egyptian mummy and the archaeologist who opens his tomb. This song overshadows the rest of the album, leaving the listener wondering how in a few minutes a songwriter can detail a story that feels so immense.

The addition of the Bringing In The Darlings EP merely reinforces Ritter’s rut: a pleasant, but obvious collection of acoustic-backed strums. With the lilting hooks of “Love Is Making Its Way Back Home” providing any major distinction from an otherwise indistinct set.

– Tacey Rychter