Rolling Stone Country have got a lovely little piece up today about Josh Ritter’s forthcoming new album which is more political than some of Ritter’s offerings to date, and which features the 400 Unit as his band. It basically sounds awesome. They report: “It’s a rainy November evening in Nashville and Josh Ritter and Jason Isbell are huddled in front of the console at Sound Emporium Studios, an historic space located in an otherwise nondescript building in the city’s Belmont neighborhood. It’s the last recording session for Ritter’s new album, which Isbell is producing and playing on as part of the 400 Unit, and they’re in the thick of adding fiddle to one of the album’s tracks.
The song, an optimistic, mid-tempo rambler called “In Passing,” is the group’s penultimate to finish after a week in the studio, following initial sessions held back in August. “In Passing” is anchored by the acoustic warmth and unpretentious erudition (“Love the thorn and hate the rose,” Ritter sings in the hook) endemic to Ritter’s earlier work, with a gently twangy, studiously meaty heft lent by the 400 Unit. It’s classic Ritter on Muscle Shoals-bred steroids.
“You’re a genius,” Isbell says to Amanda Shires, who is still in the booth recording her fiddle parts. “Now go back and stack on top of it.” Shires layers three fiddle parts atop one another, the second and third layers played ever-so-slightly more loosely than the first, making for a sound that’s at once fat and chiming, stretching across the backing music like thick, lustrous strands of taffy. Shires isn’t hearing what she’s wanting after the first couple of takes and has a few choice words for her fiddle in the interim.
“We don’t wanna go through all this to get a fuckin’ parental advisory sticker for your ass,” Isbell jokes. “We don’t want folks saying, ‘It’s beautiful, but there’s a young lady saying, ‘Fuck this shit’ at the end.’”
As Isbell, Shires and engineer Matt Ross-Spang put the finishing touches on fiddle, Ritter paces the room, listening thoughtfully and saying little. It’s readily apparent, even to a newcomer, the trust he places in Isbell and the rest of the 400 Unit; with all of Ritter’s parts already recorded, he seems content to hang back and observe the masterful team he’s assembled at work.
Ritter and Isbell crossed paths a number of times over the last few years, but it wasn’t until the two toured together in 2016 that they discovered a special musical connection. It was after this tour — and the 2017 release of Ritter’s most recent album, Gathering — that Ritter thought that connection could extend to working in the studio together.”
You can read the whole piece over at RS here and while you do that, why not listen to Ritter’s greatest song ever: